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First-Generation Fresno State Student Selected for Congressional Internship
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By News
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 30, 2024

Fresno State' student Esmeralda Palafox is going to Washington for an internship with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and United Farm Workers. (GV Wire Composite/Paul Marshall)

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Esmeralda Palafox was one of six students nationwide selected to participate in a 10-week internship program this summer with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute and United Farm Workers in Washington, D.C.

Palafox is a first-generation college student who recently completed her first year at Fresno State, majoring in biology. She aspires to be a cardiothoracic surgeon.

“I cried when I was told that I was selected to represent Fresno State,” Palafox said. “I knew I was capable of anything but didn’t know what a girl from a small city would do in a city like Washington, D.C. I had never flown or even been out of the state. I felt so happy.”

Born and raised in Porterville, Palafox grew up working with her family in the fields. She recalled dedicating summers and weekends to harvesting oranges, grapes, and cherries, from sunrise to sunset, at age 5, and how the experience pushed her to pursue higher education.

Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute Boasts Distinguished Alumni

Over the course of her internship, Palafox will have the opportunity to learn about the federal government and policy development and implementation. She will also participate in seminars and leadership activities, including networking with Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute alumni, many of whom are now leaders in Capitol Hill, Fortune 500 companies, and nonprofit organizations supporting Latino education and leadership development.

“I really hope to learn more about myself as an advocate, member of my community and as a Hispanic woman trying to conquer the world where we are considered to be the minority,” Palafox said.

“(Because) I am currently (planning) to enter the medical field … I plan to also learn more about health policies that have affected the minority, laws that should be passed, and the needs of the people. Overall, I hope to experience an abundance of growing opportunities that will allow me to come back and share what I’ve learned with those around me.”

While at Fresno State, Palafox enrolled in programs to gain experience in the health care field, including the Health Careers Opportunity Program and Health Professions Pathways.

Member of Fresno State’s CAMP

Palafox also became a member of the university’s College Assistance Migrant Program, commonly referred to as CAMP.

The program assists first-year students from migrant and seasonal farmworker families, working with campus staff, faculty, and the community to provide access to academic, personal and professional resources, and improve educational opportunities. The program aims to set up students to be successful for the rest of their time at Fresno State and into their professional careers.

“CAMP has made a huge impact in my life, and without them I truly feel that I wouldn’t be where I am today,” Palafox said. “The program makes their students feel welcomed, like a family, and, more importantly, a human being who makes mistakes but is capable of anything.”

“In the eyes of this wonderful program we are more than just the color of our skin, more than the 10% of master degrees and the 1% of Ph.D.s. We are the next generation of capable Latinos.”

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