For FIU senior, political career blooms with Capitol Hill internship

Darryl Perez, 21, meets Hillary Clinton during the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual 2015 Gala.
Darryl Perez, 21, meets Hillary Clinton during the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s annual 2015 Gala.

Choosing a political science major and career path was easy for 21-year-old Darryl Perez. But gaining experience on the Hill before earning his bacherlor’s degree was priceless.

Perez, a Florida International University student, gained an internship with Sen. Marco Rubio through the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute’s (CHCI) Congressional Internship Program.

"It was an eye-opening experience and I appreciate the CHCI," Perez said. "Without them, I wouldn’t have been working on the hill."

Perez is one of 22 students chosen to work in the nation’s capital for 12 weeks through the Congressional Internship Program, which aims to increase the presence of Hispanics on Capitol Hill by exposing young students to the legislative process and strengthening their leadership skills. The program also includes diversity, work experience and community service by giving interns a peek into a political career.

That was important for Perez, who decided to pursue political science in the seventh grade at Miami Lakes Educational Center.

"I fell in love with politics and the possibility of making a difference," Perez said.

Now a senior, Perez has decided to make a few changes as he embarks on political career, advocating for equal access to education, helping undocumented students getting in-state tuition, and assisting low-income communities.

Perez finished his internship on Nov. 13, but for the Miami native, his service continues at home.

Through his involvement in the Global Community Engagement Organization at FIU, Perez visits the Dominican Republic with a group of 20 students each spring break.

"Many children there live in poor conditions and don’t know anything different," Perez said. "Through the organization, we teach about safe sex and common health issues to both raise awareness and prevention rates."

With a 3.2 GPA, Perez is preparing for graduation next spring and has decided to eventually attend law school to open career opportunities for his political career.

For now, he has settled in joining either the Peace Corp or Teach for America.

"Joining either of these organizations will help me to see a different side of the country and serve students there," Perez said.

"Teachers are the next best thing to parents, and that is the best way to further a child’s education."