My Debt is Paid

Posted on Thursday, Apr 02, 2020

My debt is paid!! My name is Fathima Castillo, and I am currently interning at the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics, a multi-agency working group within the Department of Education. Also, I am happy to share that I will be here in D.C this summer for a policy internship, and I will be taking summer classes at George Mason University. As you read this first couple of sentences, you might think that I planned to come to Washington, D.C. long ago, or you might even believe that I saved money to be able to survive in one of the most expensive cities in the United States. However, all these statements are way far from the truth.
Now you might be wondering why I decided to spend almost five months of my college career in D.C. or why I am even here in the first place. This adventure started the day I took my POLS 200 final. I was about to turn in my scantron when my professor (Dr. Ura) announced to the whole class that he was leading a summer trip to Washington, D.C. At first, I thought well sounds a great opportunity, but I definitely cannot afford it. However, my TA encouraged me to apply, and I applied even though I had no idea how I would pay for the trip.
But the story gets crazier, in May 2019 I participated in the Potomac Summer Institute in Washington, D.C. with Dr. Ura. During the trip, I had the privilege to learn from elected and appointed public officials, government staff members, lobbyists, policy researchers, and journalists in the nation’s capital. I also had the opportunity to hear from former Public Policy Internship Program interns about how this program helped them build their political careers in D.C.  I did not see myself coming back to D.C, but after talking to the Chief of Staff of A&M System Office of Federal Relations (Valerie Offutt), I realized that interning in D.C. will help gain valuable work experience. That day I decided that I would be applying for the Public Policy Internship program in the spring.
I know you might be wondering how I ended up paying for the trip. One week before the bill was due, I got a school grant that paid for the trip. Praise God, I did not take a student loan!! My debt is paid! That day it was clear that I was supposed to be on that trip. The fall semester was pretty busy. It felt like I did billions of cover letters, but it was so worthy. Getting into the Public Policy Internship Program and getting an internship was the first steps for a new adventure. I love D.C, and I am planning to go to law school here and ultimately work here. 
It scares me to think about what would have happened if I would not have participated at the 2019 Potomac Summer Institute. This experience taught me that the riches man is limited when compared to a man of faith. I hope that after reading my story, you will have the courage to take a risk and maybe move to a new city.

Fathima Castillo
White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for Hispanics
Washington, D.C. | spring 2020