UMass Boston Education Led U.S. House Candidate Juana Matías ’09 to Life of Public Service

Colleen Locke | November 17, 2017
Rep. Juana Matías (right) with legislative intern Summer Ordaz

Rep. Juana Matías (right) with legislative intern Summer Ordaz
Image by: Christian Arthur

State Representative from Lawrence Running for Niki Tsongas’s 3rd Congressional District Seat

Juana Matías ’09, the first Latina from Lawrence and first Latina immigrant to be elected as a state representative, is now running for the 3rd Congressional District seat being vacated by retiring U.S. Representative Niki Tsongas.

Matías, who moved to Lawrence from the Dominican Republic when she was 5, is the lead State House sponsor of the Safe Communities Act, a bill that would prevent local authorities from detaining someone solely at the request of Immigration and Customs Enforcement. In her first year representing the 16th Essex District, she has crafted H.3616 An Act Relative to Massachusetts Policy and Procedures for Missing and Abducted Children, or Lee Manuel’s Law, which calls for the development of statewide policies and procedures for missing children cases. The bill is currently with the House Ways and Means Committee.

“When I was sworn into the State House, I made a vow to learn more about policies and procedures relating to missing and abducted children,” Matías said for an interview with UMass Boston This Week. “I firmly believe that this legislation would give our law enforcement officers the best tools for finding missing children, and would give our families the sense of the security and faith in our institutions that they deserve.”

Matías says she felt compelled to run for Congress because she feels the American Dream is slipping away from too many working families.

“I haven’t given up on the American Dream because I’m a product of it,” Matías said. “We didn’t have a lot, but we were given the opportunity to make a life in this country and open a small business, to grow up in a great community, have access to jobs, and go to good public schools in Haverhill, where we lived. That’s why public service and giving back to this community is so important to me. The democratic ideals we cherish in this country – the idea of equal opportunity and justice for all – only mean something if we’re willing to stand up and fight for them.”

Matías’s commitment to public service was cemented at UMass Boston, where she was a double major in political science and criminal justice. She was very involved in campus government, serving in the Undergraduate Student Senate, serving as a Faculty Council representative, and then serving as president.

“My experience in that role coupled with my education really provided me with a profound understanding of how government could be a vehicle for positive change. At UMass Boston, among the core values are a commitment to serving the public good, leadership, and civic participation. I carry those values with me every day as I serve the people of the 16th Essex District,” she said.

Now, Matías is working with current college students such as UMass Boston senior Summer Ordaz, who has been serving as a legislative intern since Matías first took office, drafting news releases and policies.

“I was able to be there basically from Day One, from the time she was filing bills, filing budget amendments, and I really got to learn the ropes with her and her legislative aide, Manny. For the most part, it was really just us three for a lot of it, and so that meant I got to take on a more responsibility than a typical intern would take on,” Ordaz said.

For the summer, the Beacon Student Success Fellowship turned Ordaz’s unpaid internship into a paid internship.

“Had it not been for the internship opportunities and the guidance of mentors in my life I would not be where I am today,” Matías said. “Summer is committed to public service and serving the public good. I see it as my personal responsibility to provide her with all the tools that she will need in order for her to transform into the public servant that she aspires to be.”

About UMass Boston
The University of Massachusetts Boston is deeply rooted in the city's history, yet poised to address the challenges of the future. Recognized for innovative research, metropolitan Boston’s public university offers its diverse student population both an intimate learning environment and the rich experience of a great American city. UMass Boston’s 11 colleges and graduate schools serve nearly 17,000 students while engaging local and global constituents through academic programs, research centers, and public service. To learn more, visit

Tags: alumni , alumni achievements , beacon student success fellowship , government , internships , political science

Comment on this story

Comments (0)