Published on July 25, 2016 by Sean Flynt  
Political science major Fernanda Herrera
Political science major Fernanda Herrera

Samford University political science major and University Fellows honor student Fernanda Herrera of Ohatchee, Alabama, is taking part in The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), the nation’s premier Hispanic youth leadership development and educational organization. By exposing young Latinos to the legislative process and strengthening their leadership skills, the program is ultimately promoting the presence of Latinos on Capitol Hill and in public policy positions.

Herrera, who studies in the political science department’s international relations concentration, is one of only 38 CHCI interns chosen from hundreds of applicants throughout the country to work in the nation’s capital for eight weeks, where she was placed at the Office of Rep. Raul Grijalva (D-AZ).

“Being around other young Latinos who are passionate about not only education and their own progress, but who also have a deep sense of responsibility for others like them, their communities, and future generations, has been an emotional and truly awakening experience,” Herrera said. “In the congressional office and in Friday programming, I have had a sounding board comprised of talented individuals with unique struggles and different professional timelines.”

CHCI participants demonstrate high academic achievement, evidence of leadership skills and potential for leadership growth, a demonstrated commitment to public service-oriented activities and superior analytical and communication skills. The 2016 group represents a diverse range of Hispanic heritage, 34 academic institutions and 23 majors. Their duties include responding to constituent inquiries; drafting correspondence and memos; monitoring hearings; conducting research, data entry and analysis; and assisting with general office operations.

Interns attend weekly sessions and meet with distinguished leaders from a range of professional backgrounds, engage in substantive policy discussions and participate in professional development training. They also are required to fulfill CHCI community service hours. This summer, CHCI interns completed their community service at Casa Ruby, Bread for the City, Young Government Leaders, and CARECEN-The Central American Resource Center.

Related: 5 college students who owned the spotlight this election season (USA Today)