Capitol internships provide inside look into Texas politics

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Government junior Mariadela Villegas is a legislative intern in state Rep. Tomas Uresti’s office. Drawing from her experiences as an immigrant, Mariadela works to reform immigration policy. 

Photo Credit: Joshua Guerra | Daily Texan Staff

For three legislative interns, working this session at the Capitol is a foot in the door to their future careers. 

There are 65 students currently enrolled in the UT government department’s internship program, with many working at the Capitol or an organization engaging with legislation, said James Henson, director of The Texas Politics Project.

“In essence, (interns) learn by close observation, and in many circumstances, by actively participating in the process,” Henson said in an email. “It’s a terrific form of civic education.”

Holden Hopkins, a Plan II and business honors freshman, said the chance to work in the office of state Rep. Todd Hunter, R-Corpus Christi, was one he couldn’t pass up, given Hunter is the representative from Hopkins’ home district. 

“I am very interested in politics and very interested in government,” Hopkins said. “I knew that I wanted to do an internship at the Capitol at some point, especially being up here in Austin.”

Hopkins, who hopes to go into the public sphere and run for elected office himself, said he is working with Hunter’s office to address domestic violence and human trafficking, as well as his city’s water struggles. 

“I love my hometown, and I love my district,” Hopkins said. “Anything I can do to give back and work for that district, I am always willing to do.”

While he identifies more closely as a Democrat and Hunter is a Republican, Hopkins said when it comes to issues that affect Corpus constituents, personal politics don’t play a role.  

“I know that his politics at his heart is what’s best for Corpus, not what’s best for the Republican Party or what’s best for the Democratic Party,” Hopkins said. “That’s something that I can align with very closely.”

Roushon Talcott, international relations and global studies senior, is spending this semester as a legislative intern in state Rep. Tomas Uresti’s office, alongside five other interns. Uresti, D-San Antonio, is a freshman legislator, and Talcott said because of this, each intern has a great deal of responsibility researching and pitching bill ideas.

Having the opportunity to conduct research on legislation and collaborate with other interns and office employees are skills Talcott said she thinks will help her in the future during law school. 

“Getting to see the whole process has given me a better idea to see how in the future, if I were to become a lobbyist, how I could actually get things done,” Talcott said. “Knowing from seeing myself how things function is going to be very useful.”

Government junior Mariadela Villegas is also an intern in Uresti’s office, where her policy focus is on education, the environment and immigration. Villegas said being an immigrant herself has made her passionate about immigration issues and said she hopes to study immigration law in law school. 

“(I’m passionate about) helping other families who are like my family and are either fleeing from war or violence or corruption or poverty,” Villegas said. “Since I have gone through the process and have experienced what it’s like to be uncertain about where you are going to live or if you’re going to have to go back or not, is something I feel very strongly connected to.” 

Villegas said working as a legislative intern with Uresti has taught her to never say no to something she believes in.

“Working for Rep. Uresti has really opened my eyes and really solidified that career path because I really admire the level of passion he has for his issues and for his district,” Villegas said. “I feel like that’s something I want to do and something I want to aspire to be, someone who wants to help the people they can.”