Workshop teaches students importance of federal internships

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Gerald Gonzales Jr., Workforce Solutions business engagement manager, and Chancellor Mike Flores answer questions from students in leadership and public administration during a federal student paid internships informational session Oct. 22 in Oppenheimer. Business Professor Sylvia De Leon, who teaches public administration and government classes here, hosted the event. Linda Owens

Chancellor spoke on the value of internships in gaining experience.

By Andrew Casas

Federal paid internships help students financially, give insight into education pathways and help build a network of connections that help students land jobs in their profession, according to information presented in a workshop Oct. 22 in Oppenheimer Academic Center.

“Don’t be afraid to get out of your comfort zone and take a chance of stepping out of the city and gaining experience while interning with federal paid internships,” Gerald “Jerry” Gonzales Jr., said.

He is a public administration graduate of this college who has had multiple internships. He is a business engagement manager for Workforce Solutions Alamo.

The federal internships workshop was organized by public administration Coordinator Sylvia De Leon.

De Leon said she is willing to help students apply. Students must fill out the federal paid internships application. Students need a 3.0 or higher GPA, enrollment in a degree program and authorized to work in the U.S. They must have completed at least 24 college-level semester hours.

Gonzales and Dr. Mike Flores, Alamo Colleges chancellor, spoke to 30 students and faculty on the importance of applying for federal internships.

Gonzales received a bachelor’s degree in communication with concentration in public relations from the University of Texas at San Antonio and a master’s degree in public administration in urban management from St. Mary’s University.   

Both Gonzales and Flores said internships helped them gain experience, make a network of connections and have a professional résumé to land jobs.

Flores interned at the Hispanic Association of Colleges and Universities.

He said internships can help students decide what they like and don’t like about their major. Every internship should be on a résumé, which could lead to full-time positions.

 Gonzales emphasized the value of internships and experience. Gonzales said the value of internships is priceless.

 “What these federal internships did for me was give me insight and exposure to the career field that I wanted to work in, which was public administration,” Gonzales said.

 Gonzales received an internship with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission locally in 1999; HACU with placement at the USDA Forest Service in Washington, D.C., in 2001; and the Social Security Administration in 2005.

“It also gave me great experiences. If I hadn’t done these federal internships, I wouldn’t have known what I wanted to pursue further in my education, but also in my career.”

Gonzales said internships help open doors and make connections. Gonzales received a letter of recommendation from a former supervisor at the EEOC.

Gonzales said these connections can help students win scholarships, gain more internship opportunities and acquire future jobs.

The main internship that Gonzales believes was the most significant was the two-month internship with the USDA Forest Service.

The service oversees public lands in national forests and grasslands managed by the USDA.

At USDA, Gonzales traveled to Colorado to revamp a website for an organization. 

“You never know what you are going to come across as an intern, but it’s those experiences that help you make you stronger,” Gonzales said.“These internships are basically extracurricular activates that are enjoyable, monumental and fun.”

He said the hardest part of applying was the essay.

“I had to really sit down and think how am I going to write this essay that is required for the federal internship application,” he said. “I have to give credit to Professor De Leon and others who helped me edit and look over my essay.”

Gonzales said the cost of travel and room and board were taken out of the biweekly paycheck.

Gonzales said his internship with HACU led to long-term networking connections and lasting friendships.

Gonzales said he still receives letters of recommendation from former employers while interning at HACU. He still connects with friends he met during the internships. One participated in Gonzales’ wedding.

Gonzales said students don’t know what kind of power they have.

“As a student, you guys have the open door. As students you guys are golden. You can set up interviews with CEOs or employers, ask questions and try to gain as much knowledge from them.

“Employers don’t see you as a threat. They don’t mind giving back and sharing knowledge with students because maybe one day (students) can be an asset,” Gonzales said.

Gonzales reassured students to use any avenue they have during this time.

“Don’t be afraid to take chances,” he said. “You’ll be amazed at what you can accomplish if you go after it and take a chance.

 “Be confident in yourself and learn to adapt. You might experience setbacks, but don’t let that steal your passion. Dream big or go further in life.”

Students can reach Gonzales involving internship-related questions at email  

For students interested in applying for nonprofit and federal internships, call De Leon at 210-486-0192 or email


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