Javan Santos is a sophomore at the University of Guam studying political science with a minor in mathematics. This summer, he is working at the USDA Office of the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights.
What major projects are you working on in your internship? What responsibilities are you most excited about and why?
In the USDA Office of the Assistant Secretary of Civil Rights, I work under the director of the Office of Adjudication. I have two main projects for my internship. One project has me in the position of a management and program analyst, where I will analyze data and statistics collected from the OASCR. By creating graphs and observing trends, I am working towards making it easier to understand whether the USDA’s programs adequately honor the civil rights of all people. From there, I shall work to recognize patterns and discover if any improvements are necessary. This will help to ensure that all people receiving services from USDA are treated fairly and without discrimination.
The second project is related to my home, the island of Guam. The USDA has many services available to develop the island of Guam. I have seen these services first hand, from affordable housing to funds for the University. Being within the organization has made me realize that the USDA’s scope is even larger than I imagined. In order to become more aware of all the resources available back home, my supervisor has tasked me to create a report about the USDA and how it has impacted Guam. I will research what USDA has done on Guam so far, what programs are currently available, and what programs are not available in order to gain knowledge over what opportunities there are on Guam thanks to USDA.
When did you realize you wanted to explore public service?
When I was 15, I had a huge crush on a friend who was and still is a huge political junkie. I was head over heels. When my friend joined a public service organization called Guam Youth Congress, I honestly only joined to get an opportunity to find common ground. But on my first day, I got encouragement from my supervisor to tackle a controversial issue that was all over local news. I had no experience, but I dove into it anyway thanks to that added support, and because it was an issue I knew someone should tackle. I wrote a bill, the youth body passed it, and a local senator had written a bill similar to ours and had used our bill in his statements, saying that the youth had taken a stance and he should support it. It didn’t work out between me and my crush, but it turned out that the teenage infatuation I had lead me to a passion to serve my community.
What are your plans/ goals after this internship? Are there any goals you want to accomplish this summer?
This summer, I hope to figure out whether I would want to return to Washington D.C. to find a career here. In D.C., public service happens on such a grand scale and impacts so many people. This summer is a trial period for figuring out whether I want to be a part of that. I also hope to learn about how Asians and Pacific Islanders help each other within the AAPI community in the States. Guam is more than 95% AAPI, so we are not a minority by far. I hope to learn about the community we all share and the struggle that we all tackle together. Lastly, I hope to learn what struggles Pacific Islanders who leave their island have. After this internship, I plan to return back to Guam and use the skills and knowledge I gained to further help people back home. At home, I plan on finishing my degree, and continuing public service in whatever capacity fate has in store for me.
What are you looking forward to in DC?
I’m planning on making an effort to be exposed to the international community and the culture they bring to this city full of diplomacy. I also want to attend several legislative hearings while I’m here, take advantage of seeing what people actually do on the Hill. I’ll be spending many weekends trying to see everything the Smithsonian has to offer. I love museums, and this is the place to be because the Smithsonian is mostly free. Lastly, I’m making it a point to go on a hike out here. I love hikes on the tropical paradise I call home, so I’m curious as to how hikes in this environment will compare.
What is something that most people would not know about you?
In middle and high school, I never really did sports. I got my competition fixing from a school league of trivia challenges. Basically, two teams of four challenge to answer as many trivia questions as possible. Each player has a buzzer and they work to get their team the highest score. It was really like Jeopardy, and every year we’d get opportunities to compete on local TV. I used to be really good, and I loved learning random facts and factoids in order to get even better at it. I’m probably really rusty, but it’s probably by far my favorite extracurricular activity.
Any advice to those who want to apply to the CAPAL program/ go into public service?
You’ll never know what’s out there if you don’t apply. Opportunities are endless and just waiting for people to take advantage of them. Even if you don’t think you’re qualified, just apply anyway. A lot of times, we are a lot more than what our insecurities tell us. Even if you don’t get accepted, find something else to do to make your resume look even better for your next application, no matter how small it is. Also, don’t be entitled. Even if you feel like you’re qualified for a position or program, don’t feel that it’s the end of the world if you don’t get it. If you humble yourself and bide your time, making your resume even better, eventually you’ll get to where you want to be.
Meet all of our CAPAL Scholars & Interns here.
Posted by Nattacha Munakata
Nattacha Munakata is currently a rising sophomore at George Mason University, studying Community Health with a concentration in Clinical Science (Pre-med). On campus, she is Peer Health Advisor, working to raise awareness and educate students on health issues. She is also involved in TEDxGMU and Thai Student Association. Outside, she likes to volunteer for local organizations and events, such as the DC Sakura matsuri and her local FIRST robotics team. During her free time, she likes to watch Netflix dramas and explore new music.