Recent graduate Michelle De La Cruz put her Criminal Justice major and concentration in Legal Studies to good use in three different internships—one on the state level, one national, and one international. She was also a part of the Student Government Association, Academic Integrity Council, National Residence Hall Honorary, Student Conduct Council, and was a Spanish tutor with the Subject Tutoring Center.
Her first internship was with the United States Department of Justice through the Lutheran College Washington Semester. “The Department of Justice, you know being a criminal justice major, it’s exactly what I wanted to look more into.” She worked in the Office of Programs and Events, which manages large events like the 66th Annual Attorney General’s Award Ceremony. This program honors outstanding individuals in law enforcement. She said it was a highlight of her time there. “I was in the presence of some phenomenal and amazing, heroic, patriotic people, and we were able to recognize them, which was really cool.” She also worked on proofreading speeches given at the ceremony. “They were reading things that I personally wrote or I personally read and edited, so that was really cool.”
Her second internship was with the administration of Governor Ralph Northam (VA) during the summer of 2019. There, she worked in the office of the Secretary of Agriculture and Forestry. For the majority of her time there, she collected data on food insecurity, SNAP benefits, and low-income families to compile a census report on urban agriculture in Virginia and nationwide. “Multiple times a week, we would have brown bags, which essentially are with officials within the department, like directors and high-end officials like that. They would have meetings with the entire group of Fellows, and they would kind of tell us what they do, and we would have back and forth questioning. We even had one with the Governor.” These lunches were her favorite part of the internship. “We got to speak with so many different office officials, and they had some really cool experiences and stories and recommendations for us.”
Her final internship was at the Embassy of the Dominican Republic in the Kingdom of Belgium, for which she also earned a Gilman Award. She worked in the Consulate section of the embassy, mainly working on visa processes and helping Dominicans living in Belgium, Dominicans coming to Belgium, and Belgians going to the Dominican Republic. She valued “being able to be in the presence of the Ambassador himself, and to work collaboratively on so many different projects and to be able to utilize my Spanish in a country that I didn’t even know Dominicans resided in. It was really cool to be able to represent my culture there.” She also helped manage the Premio Al Merito Award. “It was basically a project that we would contact schools to get their qualifying Dominican students who had good grades and academic standing and all that, we would select a winner at the end, and they would have an all-expense education trip to the Dominican Republic.”
“Get out there and do these experiences,” she said, “I think internships are sometimes not as emphasized as much as they need to be, and they’re super important.” She also emphasized self-advocating for your work during an internship so that you can get the most out of your experiences. Additionally, she advised that you build your network, form relationships that really matter, and find a mentor who can help you during an internship. She finally said “And be nice to everyone, including security guards and maintenance workers…it made my time so much easier, and I had friends all over, and they’re such sweet people…employers see all of this, and it reflects on your character as well.”