From Colombia to the Halls of the United States Congress

By Catalina Fernandez
October 27, 2015

When I was seven years old, my family left Colombia for the United States. Though we were strangers in a new country and did not speak English, we were hopeful that this new land would bring a world of opportunity.

Thanks to the support of my mother and hard work, I have been able to pursue my interest in Asian culture studies and U.S. national security issues at Florida International University (FIU) and expect to graduate in August 2016. I have also had the honor of interning for U.S. Congressman David Rivera and U.S. Senator Marco Rubio in their District Offices, serving constituents in a wide range of issues. Last year, I had the privilege to participate in the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute’s (CHLI) Global Leaders Internship and Fellowship Program, which included an internship in U.S. Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart’s office and placement in Herbalife’s Washington, D.C. office.

An Insider View of National Politics

I applied to the CHLI program because I wanted to experience working in the halls of Congress and witness the policymaking process, particularly issues related to global affairs and intelligence. As someone who grew up in Miami, accustomed to the sounds of crashing ocean waves and varying Spanish accents all around me, it was a markedly different experience to hear House and Senate debates regarding the state of U.S.-China relations and U.S. Latin America relations. Living in D.C. opened my eyes to a truly wider world from the diversity of food and cultures to the different players that are part of the policy-making process. The ability to meet and talk to government leaders, business executives, academics, community leaders and other influencers was a level of exposure I could have never experienced had it not been for this program.

As a CHLI program supporter, Herbalife is ensuring that opportunities like this program are accessible to Latinas such as myself. I went to D.C. for this program the same way my family arrived in Miami 14 years ago: not knowing anyone and not speaking the language (of D.C.) but ready to make the most of an opportunity.

Creating New Opportunities
After working with the Government and Community Affairs team in D.C., I came to understand why Herbalife partners with CHLI. First, both organizations believe in levelling the playing field and opening the door of opportunity. Second, like elected officials, leaders in corporate America have a role to play in addressing public policy issues. For Herbalife, that means empowering more Americans to take control of their health and live a healthy, active lifestyle.

My journey from Colombia to FIU to D.C. is not an anomaly. The U.S. Hispanic experience is about drive, determination and the spirit to serve and give back to the communities around us. The Latino community is making the United States stronger. Companies like Herbalife that champion inclusion and support Hispanic community groups like CHLI are vital in unlocking the door of opportunity.

I feel fortunate that door was opened during my CHLI internship and when I graduate in August, I hope to return to D.C. and work in the intelligence field. I know Herbalife is transforming lives and helping people get better nutrition, but for me, Herbalife opened a world of possibility to serve on a more global level. For that I am grateful.