Sponsored by Hyundai Motor America, the CHCI Congressional Interns completed a day of community service by volunteering their time with Habitat for Humanity to build a house for family in the Washington DC area.

From left to right: Gregory Gonzales, 2012 Hyundai Intern; Cecilia Herrera, 2012 Hyundai Intern; Ismael Armendariz Jr., 2011 Hyundai Intern; Lissa Palacios, 2011 Hyundai Intern

Hyundai has established a partnership with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute that includes providing funding for the CHCI Congressional Internship Program.  The purpose of the program is to expose Latino students to the legislative process and to strengthen their leadership skills, ultimately promoting the presence of Latinos on Capitol Hill and in Federal Agencies.

The CHCI Summer Congressional Intern Program provides the promising Latino undergraduates from across the country to participate in a community service project and receive professional development by being placed in a Congressional Office or Federal agency for a period of eight weeks.

Over the last two years, Hyundai has sponsored four CHCI Summer Congressional Interns:


Gregory Gonzales, 2012 Hyundai Intern
Hometown: San Antonio, Texas
School: Saint Mary’s University
Major: Communications
Placement: The Office of Rep. Charles Gonzalez

Gregory Gonzales is a San Antonio native, born and raised. Attending St. Mary’s University as a sophomore majoring in Communications, he has been an active participant in the community in and around San Antonio. Greg chose to attend St. Mary’s for its recognition as the second leading university in the nation committed to service and social mobility. It is through this duty to serve that Greg has continued his extensive volunteerism through college.

As an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America, Greg has led many projects and volunteer efforts to raise awareness about homelessness, poverty, and wounded veterans’ needs in the San Antonio community. As the president of the Young Oblates Association, he led monthly gatherings to feed the homeless in San Antonio. In addition, he spends his Saturday mornings to volunteer at the Haven for Hope organization to work towards ending homelessness. Greg also spent time building relationships with head injury patients through the Alamo Head Injury Association, and also helped return soldiers back to the states.


Upon graduating from college, Greg plans to move to Chicago to pursue his studies in Communication. The CHCI internship will allow Greg to learn from some of the best communicators in the country and provide a foundation for him to become a more successful speech writer and speaker.


Cecilia Herrera, 2012 Hyundai Intern
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
School: University of California – Los Angeles
Major: International Studies
Placement: The Office of Rep. Xavier Becerra

Cecilia Herrera was born and raised in Los Angeles, CA by Salvadoran immigrant parents. Like many Salvadorans, her parents left their home country due to the violent Civil War of the 1980s. Her parents’ experiences and work-ethic helped mold her into the ambitious individual she is today and led her to be the first in her family to pursue a higher education.

In the fall of 2012, Cecilia will begin her final year as an undergraduate at UCLA. She will be graduating in June 2013 as an International Development Studies major with a Public Policy and Labor/Workplace Studies double minor. She was recently inducted into the Gamma Sigma Alpha Academic Honor Society.

Her passion for her culture and community is reflected in the organizations she is involved in. She was recently elected President for the UCLA chapter of Lambda Theta Alpha Latin Sorority, Inc., the first Latina academic sorority in the nation. In addition, this past year she was the UCLA Statewide Representative for la Unión Salvadoreña de Estudiantes Universitarios (USEU). She visited El Salvador for the first time with UCLA’s Habitat for Humanity Global Village Program in December 2011. This experience influenced her to be the coordinator for a trip to Peru with the same program this upcoming December.

Through UCLA’s External Vice President’s Office, Cecilia was a part of the University of California Student Association 10thAnnual Student Lobby Conference in Sacramento, CA. In addition, she also was a part of the United States Student Association 46th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC. Both conferences seek to develop student leadership and offer opportunities for students to network around a variety of higher education issues.

As a CHCI Intern, Cecilia hopes to continue developing as a leader and strengthen her knowledge of public policy.


Ismael Armendariz Jr., 2011 Hyundai Intern
Hometown: Downey, California
School: University of California-Berkeley
Major: History
Placement: The Office of Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard

Ismael Frank Armendariz Jr. was raised in Downey, California, by his mother Cynthia Magaña and his grandparents Frank and Margie Magaña. Armendariz is currently pursuing a history degree at the University of California, Berkeley. Prior to transferring to U.C. Berkeley, Armendariz attended East Los Angeles College where he competed on the wrestling team, where he was honored as both the 2005-06 ELAC Scholar Athlete of the Year and Athletic and Academic All-American.

Armendariz’ passion for his community and his interest in social justice led him to intern at the Raza Recruitment and Retention Center, a student-initiated outreach and retention resource for U.C. Berkeley students. He was honored as the Academic Retention Intern of the Year and selected as the educational awareness coordinator. Along with eight other coordinators, Armendariz was given the task of managing a nonprofit organization, responsible for advocating on behalf of the Hispanic community at U.C. Berkeley. With the aid of his colleagues, Armendariz raised more than $7,000 towards eight scholarships for undocumented students. Armendariz also collaborated with different campus organizations and community centers to host a health and legal rights fair, a multicultural custodial appreciation dinner, and various workshops to assist the Hispanic community. He also organized two “brown bag” events in which the Latino community at U.C. Berkeley prepared lunches for day laborers and distributed essential information regarding worker and immigration rights.

Armendariz was recently elected to serve as the Bridges multicultural resource center director of organizing and community development for the 2011-12 academic year.

As a CHCI Intern, Armendariz aspires to broaden his skills as an advocate and help him create change within the Hispanic community.


Lissa Palacios, 2011 Hyundai Intern
Hometown: Los Angeles, California
School: Cerritos College
Major: Education
Placement: The Office of Rep. Grace Napolitano

Lissa Palacios was born and raised in East Los Angeles. She is currently attending Cerritos Community College and majoring in liberal studies with a focus in education. Palacios has a passion for education and a strong interest in politics. She hopes to be able to learn from her Capitol Hill experience and return to East L.A. to contribute in her community.

Palacios has demonstrated an extraordinary commitment to the Hispanic community as a youth leader in local community activities, specifically with Eastmont Community Center located in East Los Angeles. She has supported voter registration activities, helped distribute food to low-income families, and organized local youth in community volunteer projects.

Since 2006, Palacios has volunteered her time with the East Los Angeles Cityhood effort. Palacios understands the need for a city council in her community, as well as the potential her community holds to become a productive and inspiring city. She is very involved in efforts to incorporate East L.A. Palacios has assisted with planning meetings and fundraising events, canvassed the neighborhood and engaged in discussions with fellow residents about the pros and cons of the incorporation effort. She has also participated in media events to demonstrate her support.

As a CHCI Intern, Palacios hopes to grow as an individual and mature as a leader. Her goal is to return to East Los Angeles and implement all she has learned in her community.