2014 Spring Congressional Interns

CHCI welcomed its 2014 Spring Congressional Interns on February 8th. The class is composed of 20 diverse individuals, from 9 different states and the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico. They come from 19 different academic institutions, are pursuing 15 different majors, and 55% are the first generation to attend college.

Detailed Demographics: 2014 Spring Congressional Interns

Each intern followed a unique path that led them to CHCI's internship program. Learn more about these impressive individuals below.

2014 CHCI Spring Congressional Interns:

Lorena Avila            Alejandra Guzmán            Jonathan Martinez            Aaron Rodriguez
Karen Chicas Baltazar Hernández Jannia Mercedes Matos Barbara Ruiz
Viviana Felix  Uriel López Samuel Perez Carla Santamaria
Alejandra Gaytan Juan Maciel Paul Quiñonez Maria-Paula Segura
Omar Martínez Gonzalez Camila Martínez Dehigar Ramírez Gregorio Talamantez IV

 

Lorena Avila
Hometown:
Panorama City, CA
School: California State University- Northridge
Major:
Political Science
Placement:
Office of Rep. Tony Cárdenas

Lorena Avila is a first generation Mexican-American born and raised in Los Angeles. Having worked nearly full time since her sophomore year, Lorena has learned that nothing in life comes easy.  To be successful, one must have the proper dedication.

Lorena is pursuing a degree in political science with a minor in Chicano studies at California State University at Northridge. Lorena interned for former councilman, Rep. Tony Cárdenas, which allowed her to build a greater knowledge on how to make local residents aware of the government resources available to better their communities. Her internship at the Van Nuys Superior Courthouse and volunteer work at a non-profit immigration clinic helped further fuel her interest in immigration law.

Lorena is deeply motivated to one day attend law school and establish her own law firm to help low-income Los Angeles residents acquire legal status after witnessing the deportation of family members.  As a CHCI Intern, Lorena hopes to gain a better understanding of public policy and how it impacts the Latino community.

Back to top

Karen Chicas
Hometown:
Levittown, NY
School: CUNY City College
Major:
Philosophy
Placement:
 Office of Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand 

Karen Chicas is a first generation Salvadoran-American and the only child of a single mother. She was born in Long Island, New York and raised in El Salvador until the age of 12 when she returned to the United States.
 
Karen attended SUNY Nassau Community College. She pursued a liberal arts major and held executive board positions in clubs and organizations including student government and Phi Theta Kappa. Currently, she is a Skadden Arps Legal Studies Program Scholar and a rising senior at CUNY City College of New York where she is pursuing a double major in philosophy and pre-law. She aspires to enroll in law school.
 
As a CHCI Intern, Karen hopes to gain a better understanding of the relationship between law and public policy, as well as the role of women in office. Her goal is to use this experience in order to become an agent of change in her community.

Back to top

Viviana Felix
Hometown:
Roy, UT
School:
Weber State University
Major:
Sociology
Placement:
Office of Sen. Tom Udall

Viviana Felix is a first generation Mexican-American born in Durate, California and raised in Ogden, Utah. She comes from a single mother household where being the oldest meant she had to mature quickly and take on adult responsibilities at a young age. Viviana is currently a senior at Weber State University, majoring in sociology with a minor in legal studies. She plans to become an attorney focusing on immigration and criminal law. 

Viviana has been an active participant in her community through activism and research. Volunteering since the age of 14, Viviana became passionate about immigration law and learned how to fill out immigration forms for programs such as Temporary Protection Status and Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. Having participated in several community research projects, her two most memorable have been the Ogden United Way Promise Neighborhood Project and Unheard Voices. Viviana believes education is an important aspect of improving oneself and community. She has also served in various campus leadership roles such as diversity board member and Hispanic student senator, in which she learned the needs of undocumented students and provided one-on-one assistance with college enrollment.

As a CHCI Intern, Viviana plans on immersing herself in the Washington D.C. culture and expanding her knowledge of politics. She hopes to better understand the legislative process and become a stronger Hispanic leader for her community.

Back to top

Alejandra Gaytan
Hometown:
El Paso, TX
School:
University of Texas at Austin
Major: English
Placement:
Office of Rep. Beto O’Rourke

Alejandra Gaytan was born in El Paso, Texas to Mexican parents who taught her the value of being an honest person with drive and humility.  Alejandra is a senior at the University of Texas at Austin, majoring in English with a minor in government. She is working towards a bridging-discipline-diploma in global studies with a focus on transnational security and terrorism.

Passionate about taking a hands-on role in her community, Alejandra has interned for several non-profits such as Con Mi Madre and the Governor’s Commission for Women. She presided as the co-president of a service organization, Contagious Smiles, and worked as a research assistant for Innovation for Peace and Development.

As a CHCI Intern, Alejandra hopes to better understand the legislative process at a national level. She understands the importance of equality and security within the United States and knows that the leadership skills she will acquire can only help in her future endeavors.

Back to top

Omar Martínez Gonzalez
Hometown:
Chicago, IL
School:
Illinois Institute of Technology
Major:
Biochemistry
Placement:
Office of Rep. Luis V. Guitiérrez

Omar Martínez is a first-generation college student born in Mexico City, Mexico and raised in Chicago, Illinois. Growing up, he witnessed the immense sacrifices that his parents made in order to provide him and his sister the opportunities they never had. In high school, he attended a medical academy that sparked an interest in medicine and science. After interning at various major hospitals in Chicago, including Northwestern Memorial Hospital and the former Children’s’ Memorial Hospital, he quickly realized that he wanted to become a physician.

Omar currently attends Illinois Institute of Technology (IIT), where he is completing his Bachelors of Science in biochemistry.  He plans on obtaining a professional masters degree in cellular and molecular biology from IIT before he applies to medical school. His goal is to become a family physician. He also plans on practicing medicine abroad through Doctors Without Borders, and has tapped into his love of languages to prepare for those experiences.    

Through CHCI, Omar hopes to gain valuable life skills that he can use as a physician and public health advocate. He hopes to connect with individuals in Washington, D.C. who are as passionate about education and healthcare as he is.

Back to top

Alejandra Guzmán
Hometown:
East Palo Alto, CA
School:
Brown University
Major:
Education
Placement:
Office of Rep. Karen Bass

Born in Stanford, California, Alejandra Guzman grew up in Guadalajara, Mexico and East Palo Alto, California. While growing up, her family constantly moved between Mexico and California separating her from her father, and at times, her siblings. Adjusting to the educational differences between the two countries was a challenge, yet it led her to develop a passion for education. While in sixth grade and living in East Palo Alto, Alejandra saw first-hand how gang violence and drugs can bring pain and destruction to a community. She remained focused, however, on her education and became the first person in her family to graduate high school, as well as the first to attend college.

Alejandra is a junior at Brown University pursuing a double major in education and psychology. She credits her family’s hard work and support for enabling her to pursue her passion for education.

As a CHCI Intern, Alejandra hopes to expand her knowledge of the legislative system so she can better understand how to help underrepresented student groups at a national level.

Back to top

Baltazar Hernández
Hometown:
Chandler, AZ 
School:
Arizona State University
Major:
Public Policy & Management
Placement:
Office of Rep. Ed Pastor 

The son of Mexican-American parents, Baltazar Hernandez grew up in Chandler, Arizona. He is currently a sophomore at Arizona State University, studying public service and public policy with a concentration in business.

Baltazar is an active member of his university’s Movimiento Estudiantíl Chicana/o de Aztlán, Hispanic Business Students Association, as well as Los Diablos Student Organization. In MEChA, Baltazar partook in protest demonstrations, advocated for civil and human rights, and facilitated a youth conference for college-bound students. As a member of HBSA, he developed professionally by attending banquets and other networking events with local business leaders. As treasurer of Los Diablos, Baltazar assists with community service projects, on-campus activities such as the annual Homecoming parade, tailgaters, and several fundraisers throughout the year. Upon obtaining his undergraduate degree, Baltazar plans to pursue a master’s degree in public policy.

As a CHCI Intern, he hopes to solidify his career goals in government relations. He envisions himself managing a nonprofit organization by modeling the work of his mentor and established community leader, Alberto Esparza, CEO of the Si Se Puede Foundation. Ultimately, he hopes to lead a long life of public service, demonstrating the importance of higher education and spreading his goodwill unto others.

Back to top

Uriel López
Hometown:
Visalia, CA
School:
University of California- Berkeley
Major:
Chicana/o Studies
Placement:
Office of Rep. George Miller

Born and raised in the San Joaquin Valley of California, Uriel is the first in his family to attend college and is passionate about education, urban poverty and immigration. He hopes to work for a member of Congress who focuses on education and labor issues. The opportunity to attend college has provided numerous opportunities and resources to make a greater impact on his community. He hopes to continue the pursuit of improving the lives of marginalized communities in the U.S. and abroad.

As a CHCI Intern, Uriel hopes to acquire and apply new skills, gain new connections and further his knowledge about politics. He hopes to pursue a career in public service where he can give back to the community.

Back to top

Juan Maciel
Hometown:
Pharr, TX
School:
University of Texas- Pan American
Major:
Accounting
Placement:
Office of Rep. Rubén Hinojosa

Juan is a first generation college student and a senior at the University of Texas Pan American pursuing a bachelor’s degree in accounting.  Working at the University Community Engagement Department has brought him a new perspective on how to serve his community. Juan served as vice president and president for the Association of Latino Professionals in Finance and Accounting (ALPFA) where he saw his potential to grow as an individual. He was awarded United Way’s Outstanding Volunteer for his service on the project, “Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) for the Rio Grande Valley.”

Juan’s family has always provided him the motivation to succeed. He has seen the hardships that his parents have gone through in order to provide him with an education and hopes to make his family proud.

As a CHCI Intern, Juan hopes to gain the necessary skills and knowledge to create change in the Latino community and to inspire other Latinos to become leaders.

Back to top

Camila Martínez
Hometown:
Carolina, PR
School:
University of Sacred Heart
Major:
Criminal Justice
Placement:
Office of Rep. Pedro Pierluisi


Camila Martínez Agudo was born and raised in San Juan, Puerto Rico. She is the youngest of three sisters.  During high school she was a member of the Model United Nations Club and President of the Student Council.

Camila is a junior at Universidad del Sagrado Corazón, in Puerto Rico, majoring in judicial systems. She plans to attend law school upon graduation and aspires to work for the federal government.

As a CHCI Intern, she hopes to improve her leadership skills, better understand the federal government, and develop professional relationships that will help her in her future endeavors.

Back to top

Jonathan Martinez
Hometown: Brooklyn, NY
School: Syracuse University
Major: Policy Studies
Placement: Office of Rep. Nydia Velázquez

Jonathan Edelberto Martinez is a first generation Nicaraguan-American. As a senior at Syracuse University, Jonathan is triple majoring in political science, international relations and policy studies with a minor in strategic management. He served as a high school tutor in Syracuse, working with Somali-Bantu refugee students with limited English proficiency. Jonathan has collaborated with the United Way of Central New York and CNYVitals as a research consultant. His work has been used to assess the current state of social societal issues affecting Onondaga County’s underprivileged populations and as a reference for understanding the current state of arts, culture, recreation and civic engagement in Onondaga County.

Through the Arthur O. Eve HEOP program, Jonathan traveled to France to study French while interning as a Spanish language teaching assistant in Strasbourg, France. After that experience, he has taken his cultural and language interests and combined them with his degree studies. He has taken language coursework in French, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. Upon graduation, Jonathan plans to enroll in a master’s program for public administration.

As a CHCI Intern, Jonathan looks forward to honing his leadership skills and further his understanding of public policy at the national level. Jonathan seeks a career as a policy analyst and believes this experience will help him reach his goal in becoming a foreign service officer and representing the United States abroad.

Back to top

Jannia Mercedes Matos
Hometown:
New York, NY
School:
American University
Major:
International Studies
Placement:
Office of Rep. Charles B. Rangel

Jannia was born in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic. At the age of six, her family moved to New York City. During her senior year in high school, Jannia participated in World Vision’s Youth Empowerment project (YEP) and developed a deep interest in advocacy and policy. During the past two summers, Jannia has been the youth liaison for the UNIDOS coalition to the United Nations. 

Currently a junior at American University majoring in international studies, Jannia has a focus in foreign policy and national security, with a minor in Arabic. She hopes to pursue a career in both foreign and domestic policy to help empower the Latino community and other underrepresented groups.

As a CHCI Intern, Jannia hopes to better understand the legislative process and further develop her leadership skills.

Back to top

Samuel Perez
Hometown: Houston, TX
School: University of Houston- University Park
Major: Political Science
Placement: Office of Rep. Marc Veasey

Raised in Houston, Texas, Samuel Perez is looking forward to the CHCI experience in D.C. Upon his graduation, Samuel obtained 32 hours of college credits.  He is a recipient of a Houston Astros scholarship, which enabled him to obtain an associate’s degree from Lone Star College in Houston, Texas.    

Today, he is a junior at the University of Houston majoring in political science. He hopes to attend law school, become a lawyer, and open a law firm focused on helping the Hispanic community. He hopes to help low-income families with affordable or free law assistance.

As a CHCI Intern, Samuel hopes to gain professional experience that will prepare him to accomplish his goals. 

Back to top

Paul Quiñonez
Hometown: Pasco, WA
School: Gonzaga University
Major: Political Science
Placement: Office of Sen. Debbie Stabenow

Paul Quinonez was born in Colima, Mexico and raised in Pasco, Washington. Paul is a first generation college student pursuing a degree in political science and economics at Gonzaga University. He plans to pursue his dream of attending law school and practicing corporate law and entering into politics.

Paul has volunteered as an interpreter at the Franklin County Courthouse during elections and used his bilingual skills in assisting AARP as an interpreter during tax season. As a volunteer, he assisted teachers in an ESL classroom at Stevens Middle School. Paul hopes to use his studies to serve his community.

As a CHCI Intern, Paul looks forward to increasing his knowledge of the legislative process and to better understanding how he can best serve his community.

Back to top

Dehigar Ramírez
Hometown:
Attleboro, MA
School:
University of Massachusetts-Boston
Major:
Biochemistry
Placement:
Office of Sen. Mark Udall

Dehigar Ramirez came to the United States from Venezuela when he was eight years old and is the oldest of two siblings. Dehigar is a 2014 graduate of The University of Massachusetts at Boston, where he is studying political science and biochemistry. He hopes to attend medical school in the near future.

Dehigar’s deep interest in politics was engendered his senior year of high school when he campaigned for Congressman James McGovern IV. Dehigar was also a student senator in his school government, as well as the Chair for the Human Rights Committee at Boston Medical Center.   

As a CHCI Intern, Dehigar hopes to better understand the intrinsic role of American politics in the medical world, and thus carry this knowledge in his future endeavors.

Back to top

Aaron Rodriguez
Hometown:
Ontario, CA
School:
California State University Chico
Major:
Multicultural and Gender Studies
Placement:
Office of Rep. Gloria Negrete McLeod

Aaron Rodriguez is the first in his family to attend college, the oldest of three children from Ontario, California. His parents stressed the importance of pursuing higher education from an early age. Currently he is a senior at California State University, Chico pursuing an undergraduate degree in multicultural and gender studies.

Aaron has involved himself in various student organizations and campus initiatives during his time in Chico. He developed a passion for student advocacy through his work with student government as the Commissioner of Multicultural Affairs. These experiences also led Aaron to focus his ambitions toward improving the access to institutions of higher education for students from historically marginalized backgrounds.

As a CHCI Intern, Aaron is eager to further develop his skills and diversify his experiences while learning about our country’s legislative process.

Back to top

Barbara Ruiz
Hometown:
Hialeah, FL
School:
Florida International University
Major: International Studies
Placement:
Office of Rep. Steven Horsford

Barbara comes from a family of hard-working women. Her mother made many sacrifices and risks to help mold Barbara into what she is today. Through childhood experiences, Barbara has learned to become self-sufficient during difficult times. Throughout her college career, she has been involved in numerous organizations such as, Student Government Association, Phi Theta Kappa honors society, Miami Rescue Mission, Pan American and the United Sea Cadets Corps among others.    

Barbara hopes to become a lawyer and eventually a judge. She also hopes to cultivate her Nicaraguan background by creating a link between the United States and Nicaragua through non-profit organizations.

As a CHCI Intern, Barbara would like to develop her leadership skills, challenge herself and learn about public and foreign policy.

Back to top

Carla Santamaria
Hometown:
Miami, FL
School:
Florida International University
Major:
Sociology
Placement: Office of Rep. Joe Garcia

Carla Santamaria was born in San Pedro Sula, Honduras and raised in Miami. As a first generation immigrant, Carla knows the importance of hard work, integrity, and determination. She holds an associate degree in psychology from Miami Dade College, and is currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree in sociology and Latin American studies at Florida International University.

Carla has interned as a summer teacher for Breakthrough Collaborative, a nonprofit organization that works to close the achievement gap by reducing the summer learning loss among underprivileged public school students. She is acutely aware of the importance of education and of being a life-long learner. As such, she plans to pursue a graduate degree in urban education and hopes to pass on a love of learning to the students who will one day occupy her classroom.    

As a CHCI Intern, Carla hopes to gain a national perspective on public policy issues that affect Latinos in the United States. Furthermore, Carla hopes to gain leadership experience which will enable her to create positive change in her community.

Back to top

Maria-Paula Segura
Hometown:
Weston, FL
School: University of Florida
Major:
Economics
Placement:
Office of Sen. Michael Bennet

Maria-Paula is a senior at the University of Florida pursuing a degree in economics and political science with a minor in international development and humanitarian assistance. At the age of 8, her family migrated from Bogotá, Colombia to South Florida. Overcoming cultural differences prepared her for adapting to different types of situations. As a result, Maria-Paula has been able to embrace and understand both the American and Hispanic culture. She considers the effort her parents made to come to this country as the driving force in her life.

As an ambassador in the Institute of Hispanic/Latino Cultures, she focuses on educating the community about issues that affect the Latino community. She has also been a part of the executive board of PorColombia and currently volunteers by mentoring ESL high school students weekly.  Through international development, Maria-Paula aspires to work on economic solutions to alleviate poverty. She hopes to participate in the Peace Corps, and one day work for an organization like UNICEF.

As a CHCI Intern, Maria-Paula hopes to gain more hands-on knowledge of public policy in order to make a difference.

Back to top

Gregorio Talamantez IV
Hometown:
Del Rio, TX
School:
George Mason University
Major:
International Studies
Placement:
Office of Rep. Pete Gallego

At the age of 18, Gregorio Talamantez joined the Army.  During his Army career, Gregorio went from a paralegal to a member of the Army’s elite bomb disposal community (Explosive Ordnance Disposal) serving two tours in Iraq. As a member of the Army Bomb Squad, he was trusted to apply his expertise knowledge to the context of high-risk, zero-fail circumstances to create solutions that saved lives and essential assets. In April 2013, he left the Army to pursue a different life.

Gregorio is currently earning his degree in global affairs with concentrations in global management, economics, and governance. He hopes to attend graduate school to pursue an MBA in finance.

As a CHCI Intern, Gregorio hopes to gain a firm understanding of the factors that filter into the thought processes of high level policy decisions, and how to use this knowledge to improve the lives of the Latino community.

Back to top


eResources