Since 1992, the HACU National Internship Program (HNIP) has been connecting Hispanic college students with federal agencies and private corporations across the United States. The nation’s largest Hispanic college internship program, HNIP has changed the lives of more than 5,000 students, including Rogelio Muñoz Jr., or Roy, a graduate student at the University of Minnesota. With the help of HNIP, he is realizing his dream of working for the U.S. government. Read more about Rogelio’s story.
Did you always know you wanted to go to college?
I came from humble beginnings, and neither of my parents finished high school. They were always very supportive, but college wasn’t something that entailed leaving home for good. At a very early age, when most kids wanted to be super heroes, I knew I wanted to work for the president of the United States. In high school, I was elected as the student body president, and I knew that college was the next logical step.
What factors did you consider when choosing a college?
Mostly because it was close to my home in San Diego, Texas, I chose to attend Coastal Bend College, a junior college in Beeville, for my first two years. I had also received a full two-year scholarship, so I needed to minimize my costs and save when I transferred to a four-year university. Before college, I had never traveled far from San Diego, so I didn’t know much about the outside world.
After two years at Coastal Bend, I transferred to Our Lady of the Lake University in SanAntonio, Texas, to finish my undergraduate degree. Going to school away from home opened so many doors for me, academically and socially.
How did you learn about HNIP?
During my first year at Coastal Bend, I joined the TRIO Program, which is designed to help low-income Americans attend college, earn their degree, and go on to become influential members of society. My TRIO counselor told me about HNIP and encouraged me to apply, but I missed the deadline by one day. At that moment, I made it my goal to apply the following year.
Describe your first HNIP internship.
When the time came, I sent my application to HACU, who forwarded it to various agencies matching my academic interests. The FCA (U.S. Farm Credit Administration), an organization that regulates credit for banks and associations in the agriculture industry, responded to my application, and set up a business interview. Coming from a small town and a humble upbringing, I had no idea what to expect. I didn’t even own a suit! Despite my inexperience, they offered me the job on the spot and arranged to have me sent to Washington, DC, for orientation.
In the summer of 2001, I moved to Dallas to start my first ten-week internship with the FCA. From day one, my internship was very hands-on. I audited loan portfolios and met with bank executives in various states, such as Oklahoma, Arkansas, Mississippi, New Mexico, and Texas. I even had the honor of representing FCA as a student ambassador at the HACU conference in Puerto Rico. The experience introduced me to the world outside San Diego, and it was just the beginning. In the summer of 2002, I returned to the FCA, but this time, I worked at FCA headquarters in Washington, DC. In addition to the duties I had in Dallas, my job in Washington allowed me to interacted with the chairman, who was appointed by President Clinton, on a regular basis, and I traveled all over the East Coast.
Where did you go from there?
After returning from Semester At Sea, a study abroad program, I decided to finish my last year of school and spent the summer with my family. I also researched graduate schools, attended conferences, and received awards, which broadened my horizons even more. In the spring of 2003, I graduated with my Business Management degree and applied for an internship with the CIA, through HACU. After several extensive tests, interviews, and background checks, I received my top security clearance and began working in Business Contracts under the Office of the Director of Central Intelligence. I put the skills I learned during my FCA internship to good use at the CIA. In addition to my accounting and financial responsibilities, I wrote reports and made presentations.
What about graduate school?
After graduating with top honors at the Lake, I received a full scholarship to the University of Minnesota in Minneapolis. When I returned home after my summer internship with the CIA, I had five days to pack for Minnesota, where I would be attending the Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of Public Affairs. Because of my summer experience at the CIA, I was elected director of intelligence in my National Security Policy class. After my first semester, I was elected to the Humphrey Institute’s Public Affairs Student Association and now serve as the Community Service Chair.
Where are you now?
In addition to my studies, I am now in the process of applying for an internship with the FBI, through HNIP. This is an extremely rigorous and competitive process, and the job is very prestigious. If I am accepted, I will be one of the first HNIP interns to intern with the FBI.
If everything goes as planned, I will graduate in May of 2006 with a master’s in public policy with a concentration in foreign policy and international affairs in Latin America. After that, who knows! Maybe law school at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio, the University of Texas at Austin, or the University of New Mexico in Albuquerque. And I still haven’t lost sight of my dream to work as the president’s legal advisor.
How has HNIP helped you to achieve your goals?
HNIP, and HACU in general, has been my bridge to the world. I have learned so much, personally and professionally, and I value every minute of it. My internships have exposed me to people, situations, and experiences that I would have never encountered on my own. I owe everything to HACU. There is so much culture in the organization. Not only have I made many professional contacts, but I have made many life-long friends, as well. I believe whole-heartedly in HACU and proudly serve on the National Board for the new HACU Alumni Association. My friends joke that I’m the poster child for the organization. Supporting the program and advocating Hispanics in higher education is the least I can do for all the support and encouragement they have given me.
What does your family think of your success? They must be so proud!
At first, my parents were apprehensive about me leaving and going far away from home, but they have learned to adjust and accept that Hispanic students like myself must pave the roads for future generations. They have always been supportive of me, and I’ve done my best to make them proud. HACU celebrates the 20th anniversary of its annual conference in 2006, and I plan to take my parents. They deserve to meet the people who help make thousands of Hispanic students’ dreams come true.
Do you have any advice for Hispanic students who are thinking about attending college and participating in HNIP?
If you think it can’t happen to you, it can. I used to think a high-profile job with the CIA or the FBI was out of my reach because I wasn’t the son of a senator or ranking political figure. Boy, was I wrong! It takes a lot of self-discipline, commitment, and planning, but the opportunities are out there. Take advantage of HACU’s wealth of resources, and don’t be afraid to ask questions or for help. Most importantly, believe that you can do it, because you can!
To learn more about how HNIP can help you reach your goals, call (202) 467-0893 begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (202) 467-0893 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (202) 467-0893 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (202) 467-0893 end_of_the_skype_highlighting begin_of_the_skype_highlighting (202) 467-0893 end_of_the_skype_highlighting or visit www.hnip.net.