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UCF Student Excels During Internship in Washington

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By Aileen Perilla

Every day for an entire semester, Alex A. Alvarado would wake up, walk to Capitol Hill, and say to himself: "Man, how did I get here?"

Both resourceful and ambitious, this legal studies major grabbed at a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a behind-the-scenes look of government during one of the nation's most colorful election periods.

Alvarado is the first UCF student to be selected for a highly competitive Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute internship. He was one of 22 selected nationwide. The internship aims to give low-income Latino students demonstrating a strong academic record an opportunity to experience working in a congressional office while participating in weekly professional and leadership development, and civic engagement through community service. He was assigned to Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, the first Hispanic woman elected to Congress. She represents the 27th Congressional District - Alvarado's home district.

Alvarado, who was born and raised in Miami, used to see his mother juggling two and three jobs to support his family, and he thought, "How can I change the system? How can I alleviate and help people who are in a similar situation?"

Seeing his mother and father struggle, especially after they were laid off three times during the recession, was difficult. It was these life moments that pushed Alvarado to a career in public policy and politics.

"I've always had this intellectual curiosity as to why do things happen the way they do," he said, "And how can we change it? Or how can we at least try to figure out what the problem is, and determine a solution."

Among writing policy briefs, conducting research for legislative aides, and attending committee meetings, Alvarado also had a chance to network with many politicians in Washington.

"The hours are crazy, but I've never loved something so much. It's almost like you're not working, just part of something that is constantly moving," Alvarado said.

One of the hardest lessons Alvarado said he learned during his internship was how much fluff there can be in politics. He hopes to change that one day.

Alvarado saw Florida Sens. Marco Rubio and Bill Nelson and Speaker of the House Paul Ryan in action. He also saw President Obama during an exclusive event at the White House.

He said the highlight of his internship was receiving a plaque signed with a message from Ros-Lehtinen honoring his hard work.

"She told me, 'You work so hard. I've seen you always helping and do anything you can to help me. You're always trying to do everything perfectly,' and during the graduation at the end of the program she spoke and had me join her at the podium. It was a humbling moment," he said.

And one of those politicians he met, led him to another internship opportunity as a legislative intern with Rep. John Mica.

Alvarado said the internship and the opportunity to meet 22 others with similar experiences has made him more confident. After graduation, Alvarado plans earn a master's degree in public administration and eventually run for office.

"Despite adversities you can find a way, even when you think there is no way to make it," he said. "It's definitely made me think I can do more."

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The health care informatics master's program at UCF really helped me connect with the industry, meet people at conferences and sit for the most-desired certification exams."
— Michael Neimann M.S. in health care informatics ('14)
My internship with the District 9 Medical Examiner’s Office was one of the greatest experiences of my life. I gained an excellent understanding of the medical examiner’s office and the criminal justice field in general."
— Adam Stubley B.S. in criminal justice, criminal profiling certificate ('11)
UCF provides its physical therapy students with an excellent education and prepares them to work in the most challenging of settings."
— Jamie Dyson Rehabilitation Supervisor, Orlando Regional Medical Center
UCF's program provided me the opportunity to expedite my student experience while attaining practical experience working within local health systems."
— Daniel Barr V.P. at National Children's Hospital; M.S. in health sciences, health services administration track ('04)
My master's education helped me see the big picture of the nonprofit industry. UCF showed me how to see the different fundraising tools within the Central Florida area."
— Krysti Griffith Executive Director of Growth from Grief; Master of Nonprofit Management ('12)
The course opened my eyes to grant writing ... I learned a great deal and you [Barbara Howell] are truly an excellent instructor."
— Deborah Reith Master of Public Administration student who secured a $10,000 federal grant through a course project; B.S. in criminal justice ('86)
The skills I learned during my time at UCF are what made my transition to law school so seamless."
— Jacqueline Iaquinta Touro Law Center student; B.S. in legal studies ('10)
As an inaugural graduate of the M.R.A. program at UCF, I can attest to the outstanding curriculum developed for research administrators. "
— April Heyward Post Award Services Coordinator, University of South Carolina; Master of Research Administration ('13)
It was at UCF that I first learned many of the skills that I’ve since honed, including mapping with GIS software - an ability I found invaluable to my search for internships, graduate-level coursework, and employment."
— Richard "Ben" Hagen Research and Communications Associate, New Economy Project, New York City; B.S. in public administration ('10)
I am excited to be able to give back to the program that invested so much in me. It is truly and honor and a privilege."
— Carlos Gual Instructor of Athletic Training; B.S. in athletic training ('09)
The faculty advisor [at my medical school] was amazed that I had the opportunity to truly participate in the full spectrum of research as an undergraduate. "
— Chase Cavayero, medical student at Lake Erie College of Osteopathic Medicince, B.S. in health sciences - pre-clinical ('13) 
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