Texas Border Business ---
BROWNSVILLE – In his free time from his summer internship at the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs of the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, Arturo Aguilar is visiting all the famous sites in Washington, D.C.
“I’ve been to the Vietnam Memorial and the World War II Memorial,” said Aguilar, a veteran himself. “It is an honor to salute those who gave their lives for our country. My favorite site is the Lincoln Memorial with the biblical scripture on the walls.”
Working on his Master of Public Policy Management at The University of Texas at Brownsville, Aguilar is participating in the National Internship Program of the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.
In his HACU application essay, Aguilar wrote: “I want the voice of Hispanic people to be heard nationwide. Being American has made me realize the importance of a college education, the importance of voicing your opinion and the freedoms that this nation has to offer. I am compelled to serve in the public sector because I realize the struggles that others like me are having.”
At the Office of Congressional and Legislative Affairs, Aguilar is working with the legislative team that prepares witnesses to testify before the Veterans Affairs Committees of the U.S. House of Representatives and the U.S. Senate.
“This office is the Department of Veterans Affairs liaison to Congress,” he said. “Any bill, anything to do with the VA comes through here – health related, benefits, cemetery issues and so forth.”
Aguilar said his office typically does not see Secretary of Veterans Affairs Shinseki; however, a rare event will occur on July 25 when Secretary Shinseki and the Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, will both testify before Congress. The interns always watch relevant congressional proceedings, and this one, he said, will be particularly special one to witness.
To be interning in Washington, D.C., only five years after graduating from Brownsville’s Porter High School in 2007, Aguilar has been on an accelerated schedule. He managed to squeeze in two years with the U.S. Army (2008-10) during which time he added to his college credits.
Taking heavy course loads along with summer, winter and May sessions ever since, Aguilar received his Bachelor of Arts in Government in December 2011 and immediately began the MPPM program in January 2012. One of his professors, Dr. Terence Garrett, Associate Professor and Chair of the Department of Government, encouraged him to apply for the HACU internship.
“I know I want to work for the government and go straight into public service,” Aguilar said. “After a few years and getting connected with all of Brownsville, I plan to run for city council, mayor, and then, God-willing, Congress. I was born and raised here, and I love Brownsville so much; I think I can really do some great things for her citizens.”
Aguilar lives with three other HACU interns, two from Puerto Rico and one from California, in an apartment that was provided for them in Alexandria, Va. The cost of their lodging is deducted from their paychecks. Their commute into the District is about half an hour on the Metro.
Aguilar said he is observing and learning about the intricacies of politics.
“The president appoints the secretaries, and they must respond to what he wants,” he said. “And nothing gets cleared without the approval of the Office of Management and Budget, which falls under the White House.”
Aguilar said education was a priority in his home when he and his two older sisters were growing up. His sisters both received their bachelor’s degrees from UTB, are now teaching in Brownsville and are working on their master’s degrees.
“All three of us knew we needed to get a degree to make something of ourselves,” Aguilar said.
For more information on the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities, visit the HACU website. TBB