In May 2020, Tyler native Cruz Perez graduated with honors from Tyler Junior College and was looking forward to his next chapter: a full-ride, transfer scholarship to Baylor University.
Today, Perez is a newly minted Baylor graduate and spending his summer in Washington, D.C., serving as an intern on Capitol Hill.
While mulling his options after graduation and before applying to law school, he came across the College to Congress (C2C) program.
“I submitted my initial application and went through two more rounds which consisted of policy proposals, mock emails, and lastly a final interview with their staff before being selected as one of 10 to spend the summer in D.C.,” he said.
The 10 C2C interns were selected out of 765 applicants nationwide and receive full funding for all costs associated with interning in Washington D.C., including travel, housing, meals and a professional wardrobe.
Every applicant to the College to Congress program is Pell Grant eligible, and the cost of interning in D.C. for a summer can total up to $25,000. By providing professional development, training, mentorship, political connections, and financial resources to these interns, College to Congress is systemically changing Congress and diversifying the Congressional staff pipeline.
“The people writing our laws should reflect the people they serve,” said Morgan Rako, C2C chief operating officer. “To work for free in one of the most expensive cities in the country is a near impossibility for most Americans. C2C is proud to be assisting these talented young individuals in kickstarting their careers in public service. The future is bright!”
At Baylor, Perez majored in political science with a focus on constitutional law and political parties, and he minored in religion.
In Washington, he will be working for U.S. Rep. Randy Weber, the Texas District 14 congressman from Pearland.
“I hope to gain an understanding of the legislative process firsthand,” Perez said. “It is so easy to read about the legislative process from a book, but it’s something else to see it in action. I also look forward to building connections with individuals across the political spectrum, as I believe that together we can change the country. I believe that this summer will serve as a foundation for a career in public service.”
Even before he left TJC in 2020, Perez was already eyeing a career in law and politics.
At the time, he said, “TJC was really a great decision for me,” he said. “I grew and learned so much here. More than just academics, I learned how to listen to different points of view that helped me to form my own thoughts and opinions.”
At TJC, he majored in general studies and was a member of the TJC Presidential Honors Program and Alpha Omicron Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, and served as a Student Senate representative.
“My transition to Baylor from TJC was like any transition,” he said. “There were moments where you felt that overwhelming sensation of not belonging. But I would think back on the leaders, friends and mentors that I had met at TJC, and it made the transition so much easier. Despite the world being in the middle of a pandemic, the transition to Baylor was amazing. The support I received from staff and friends made it worth it.”
After his congressional internship, Perez said his next goal is to attend law school.
“Cruz has so much academic talent and is naturally caring and good with people,” said Dave Funk, TJC Presidential Honors Program director. “He’ll bring a lot of ‘East Texas friendly’ to Washington, D.C., and it’s so gratifying to see him be in a position to learn in real time. I’m so proud of him already, and he’s going to keep learning, improving and growing.”