Young Alum Katie Naranjo A Political Up-And-Comer

Being quoted high up in USA Today yesterday was far from the greatest bit of fame young UT alum Katie Naranjo has gotten from national (and world) media.

The greater thrills, she says, have been speaking her piece in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Egyptian newspapers, and the Economist magazine (right there in the same story with Barack Obama).

Naranjo, BA ’09, BS ’09, is in her second year as national president of the College Democrats of America. In that position, she campaigned hard for health care reform.

And she’ll benefit from what was passed this week, as she pointed out in USA Today. Running her own business at age 23, she spends around $5,000 a year for a private insurance policy. Breaking it down by month, insurance comes out to more than her rent, she says.

“That monthly cost is a significant portion of my monthly salary,” she told the newspaper.

She’s hoping now to get back on her parents’ insurance policy, under which she’ll be eligible for coverage until turning 26.

“For me it’s a very personal issue because my parents are health care providers,” she says. Naranjo grew up in Lufkin, and her parents run a home health care company together.

“They’re not sure what the bill’s going to mean for them,” she says. “But at the end of the day, they truly believe people shouldn’t have to go in debt because they’re sick, or should die because they don’t have insurance.”

Naranjo will end her term as College Dems president soon, but her fledgling career is progressing nicely.

She and her friends Will Ikard and Matt Glazer formed GNI Strategies, an online social marketing and political strategy firm, last June.

A total of about 35 businesses, nonprofits, and campaigns have retained GNI, Naranjo says. The firm supports its three founders, and they just hired a fourth employee — not bad for grads who entered the work force during the weakest economic conditions in decades.

Naranjo is mindful that political involvement on the Forty Acres has launched the careers of officeholders and analysts from Rep. Lloyd Doggett to Clinton-advisor-turned-CNN-analyst Paul Begala.

But for now, she says, she’s satisfied with just where she is.

“After talking to a lot of people like Paul,” she says, “it’s funny, because it’s a lot of ambition, but a lot of dumb luck.”



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