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Leland Fellows 2024

Front: Winnie Pham, Marissa Rendon Rebollar, Cruz Almonaci Vargas, Camila Flores Reyes, Dawn Trevino, Gabriela Hamdieh
Back: Edward Berning, Myriam Grajeda, Miguel Gutierrez, Daniel Boyd, Marie McGrew, Rohit Shajan


almonaci-vargas,-cruzCruz Almonaci Vargas
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)

Cruz Almonaci is a senior majoring in public policy and minoring in phronesis. Her background as a DACA recipient and a first-generation college student has shaped her focus on immigration, labor and education policy. Previously, Almonaci worked with Arte Público Press, conducting archival research on the 1940s discrimination experienced by Latinos. She gained practical experience through internships at the office of Houston City Council Member Abbie Kamin as a Hobby School Civic Houston Intern and the non-profit Grassroots Leadership as a UCLA Dream Summer Fellow. Almonaci held a position at the University of Houston Law Center Civil Justice Clinic, offering legal assistance to those confronting evictions. She worked full-time in Houston Council Member Abby Kamin’s office until her Leland Fellows assignment began.  

“When you want to pursue a career in public service, the greatest gift you could ever receive is the skills, experience and mentorship to be a resource for your community. My policy analysis skills were strengthened as a Leland Fellow. As the fellow assigned to the Budget Committee and Helsinki Foreign Affairs Commission, I have drafted over twenty floor and committee statements for the congresswoman following research on social issues, the incorporation of statistics and knowledge of economics. My internships allowed me to apply what I gained in the classroom to real-world challenges and reinforced my passion for public service.”


berning,-edwardEdward Berning
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz

Edward Berning is a senior majoring in political science with a minor in marketing. With a strong affinity for service to others, Berning has taken the experience he gained by becoming an Eagle Scout and in a leadership position through the Reserve Officer Training Corp program in high school to develop the commitment to excellence instilled by his parents. He is motivated by his passion for constitutional law, civil liberties and limited government, believing public servants should reflect the ideals of their constituents. Berning has gained valuable experience as a lead intern with the Ted Cruz for Senate Campaign, contributing to research, grassroots campaign efforts and other essential campaign functions.

“In school, I learned how bills become laws and how the legislative process works, but the program gave me an in-depth look into legislation, how to read it and the opportunity to touch and research the legislation being introduced. I enjoyed researching bills, but my favorite parts were my experiences in Washington, D.C. I met like-minded people and made connections on and off the Hill. Additionally, I attended many receptions and played basketball with some members of Congress. This internship gave me insight into what policies might interest me most.”


boyd,-danielDaniel Boyd
U.S. Rep. Wesley Hunt (TX-38)

Daniel Boyd is a post-baccalaureate who earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science in the fall of 2023. Through the Hobby School, Boyd gained hands-on experience as a Harris Fellow, learning communications and community outreach strategies in the Harris County Attorney’s Office. He worked with high school students eager to learn about the study of law and prepared research on environmental injustice issues experienced by Harris County residents living in lower-income and minority communities. As a Hobby School Civic Houston Intern in the office of Texas state Sen. Paul Bettencourt, Boyd helped with public events and initiatives aimed at improving constituent services and networked with peers and professionals. His expanded interest in public service has been shaped by his experience studying abroad, working on foreign mission projects, volunteering in his community and on local electoral campaigns.

“The program gave me new insight into the day-to-day successes and challenges of working in the legislative branch. My favorite aspect of being a congressional intern was soaking in the wisdom around me. I made connections and worked with some of the most intelligent and hard-working people. The internship helped shape my growth as an alumnus because you quickly realize what role education plays in D.C., especially when it comes to which career paths one might be interested in when working on the Hill. The chance to gain this experience after completing my degree has been invaluable for what's to come."


flores-reyes,-camilaCamila Flores Reyes
U.S. Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (TX-18)

Camila Flores Reyes is a senior majoring in political science with double minors in Spanish and phronesis. On campus, she is active with the University of Houston Pre-Law Society and participated in the Hobby School Civic Houston Internship Program in the Harris County Office of County Administration. Flores Reyes performed legislative research, data management, meeting planning and staffed Harris County Commissioners Court meetings. As a first-generation student, she has found inspiration in opening doors to higher education by volunteering with a skills and tutoring program for fourth graders in the Writing to Inspire Secondary Education (WISE) Project. The program is part of the Bonners Leaders Program at the University of Houston, one of 70 universities across the country helping higher education leaders strengthen communities.

“My favorite part of being on the Hill was witnessing the inner workings of our government and playing an active role in its functions. My exposure to the legislative process through my work with the congresswoman allowed me to experience the federal government in a more personal, unforgettable light. I have always known that writing is my heart’s passion in addition to public service. I am so grateful to have been given meaningful opportunities to author several types of floor statements, talking points, bill proposals and colleague letters.”


grajeda,-myriamVictoria Grajeda
U.S. Rep. Lloyd Doggett (TX-37)

Victoria Grajeda is a post-baccalaureate with a Bachelor of Science in Political Science and a minor in economics. She is a first-generation college graduate whose passion centers on lifting underrepresented communities. Her passion was fueled by working with students in an under-resourced community where she witnessed the influence of poverty, food scarcity and health care on a child’s success. Grajeda is a two-time Civic Houston Intern who gained experience working under the Harris County Treasurer’s Office and the Center for Civic and Public Policy Improvement (CCPPI). During her time at CCPPI, she supported voter education and health equity projects through community outreach and participation promotions. Additionally, Grajeda interned for a mission-oriented consulting firm where she helped raise support for grassroots organizations focused on environmental justice issues.

“This experience allowed me to see the importance of interconnectedness and fostering relationships to get legislation passed. Being a great communicator truly is key to being a good advocate and passing life-changing bills. It’s a great balance between getting work experience and learning the ins and outs of Congress. As a recent alumna, I established a networking base in D.C. that will be incredibly helpful as I prepare for a full-time position.”


gutierrez,-miguelMiguel Gutierrez
U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett (TX-30)

Miguel Gutierrez is a senior majoring in political science and a minor in national security studies. He gained public service experience through the Hobby School Civic Houston Internship Program, where he worked for the City of Houston Mayor's Office of Public Safety and Homeland Security's drug prevention initiative, Houston Crackdown, in the fall of 2023. Gutierrez helped direct constituents to appropriate anti-drug services and planned the organization's two major spring events, the Red Ribbon Rally and Candlelight Vigil. While his future interest lies in intelligence services, recent experiences have broadened his view of climate change and the prevalence of substance abuse in cities such as Houston. He points to his 2022 study abroad experience at Swansea University in Wales, U.K., for uncovering an international perspective and interest in parliamentary democracy.


hamdieh,-gabrielaGabriela Hamdieh
U.S. Rep. Sylvia Garcia (TX-29)

Gabriela Hamdieh is a senior pursuing a degree in public policy with a minor in human development and family sciences, along with a certification in nonprofit leadership. Hamdieh has gained experience with the Hobby School Undergraduate Advisory Committee and the Next Generation Leadership Academy. In the summer of 2023, Hamdieh interned with The Trevor Project, a nonprofit that provides crisis support services to LGBTQ+ youth. In the fall, she participated in the Civic Houston Internship Program and worked in the City of Houston Mayor's Office of Economic Development. Additionally, Gabriela has worked for Student Business Services as a customer service representative and has developed research experience through the UH Summer Undergraduate Research Fellowship and Houston Early Research Experience, as well as on personal projects focused on environmental racism, property rights and racial justice. 

“I became a lot more knowledgeable about how bills are administered within the scope of the capitol, how offices reach out to each other and how members interact to promote certain legislation. You get a lot of access to things by being in the right place and time. I attended events at embassies, member-hosted parties, committee hearings, receptions, and policy briefings and met people with a wealth of experience. Being able to be in this space has improved my understanding of the federal government and its realities that can't be found in a textbook.”


mcgrew,-marieMarie McGrew
U.S. Rep. Jasmine Crockett (TX-30)

Marie McGrew is a post-baccalaureate with a degree in political science and a minor in marketing. As a first-generation graduate, McGrew honors the mentoring she has received by serving her community, primarily in voter registration campaigns and food insecurity initiatives. Her campus activity included leadership roles with the Student Government Association, UH NAACP chapter, the UH Black Student Union and Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. During the 87th Texas Legislature, McGrew worked in the district office of Texas state Rep. Carl O. Sherman. She was also a three-time Hobby School intern, serving as a Harris Fellow in the Harris County Clerk's Office of Teneshia Hudspeth, a Hobby Fellow-Austin in the office of state Rep. Jolanda Jones during the regular session of the 88th Texas Legislature and former Civic Houston Intern.


pham,-winnieWinnie Phạm
U.S. Rep. Colin Allred (TX-32)

Winnie Phạm is a junior pursuing a degree in political science with a minor in economics. Originally from Iowa, she has worked with Iowa democrats and Iowa Child Advocacy Board. Through the Hobby School, she interned with the City of Houston Mayor’s Office of Education’s UNICEF Child-Friendly Cities Initiatives, where she created a campaign advocating for Houston to become the nation’s first UNICEF Child-Friendly City. On campus, Phạm works as an undergraduate research assistant in the College of Education’s Psychological, Health, and Learning Sciences department and previously as a healthcare investment analyst for a securities investment-learning program. She plans to pursue graduate school or a Juris Doctorate to influence policies for underrepresented youth.

“The energy of young professionals on the Hill is a feeling I have never experienced before. The proximity of federal offices like the Department of Labor or the National Health Institute meant that I could chat with anyone I wanted to absorb their stories. The program has sharpened my confidence in networking and pushed me to be more curious about the legislative process. I learned about the House Legislative Counsel, where lawyers take a member's abstract idea and translate it into legal language for the bill. It uncovered a new career path after law school I did not know of before. This internship has made me become a better thinker and compassionate public servant.”


rendon-rebollar,-marissaMarissa Rendon Rebollar
U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez (TX-34)

Marissa Rendon Rebollar is a senior pursuing a degree in political science with a minor in law, values and policy. She gained significant public service experience in the office of Texas state Rep. Christina Morales and with the John Whitmire for Houston mayoral campaign through the Civic Houston Internship Program in 2023. In these roles, Rendon sharpened her skills in constituent services. She also worked to increase voter registration and turnout, following her passion for increasing access to quality education and contributing her time and efforts to improve services and lives in marginalized communities. 

“The program provided me with unparalleled policy and public service experience that I could not have acquired anywhere else. I gained a deep understanding of how the federal government operates and learned about the lengthy process of creating and passing a bill into law. My favorite aspect was the environment in D.C. and the many connections around the nation, all within a tiny area. The idea that so many political actions begin here is incredible, and it was great to see how it all began.”


shajan,-rohitRohit Shajan
Husch Blackwell Strategies

Rohit Shajan is a post-baccalaureate with a degree in sociology and a minor in energy and sustainability. He gained experience in public service and administration as a 2022 Harris Fellow in the office of the Harris County Treasurer, where he worked on predatory payday lending and criminal justice reform. Shajan also served as an intern in the district office of Texas State Sen. Carol Alvarado through the Civic Houston Internship Program. He was selected as a 2023 Hobby Fellow to work at the Texas Capitol in the office of Sen. Alvarado during the 88th Texas Legislature. On campus, Shajan was a team mentor in the Mock Trial Association, an undergraduate at-large senator in the UH Student Government Association, and later as speaker of the senate. In the community, he serves as president of the Texas College Democrats and is vice president of the Asian American Democrats of Texas's Houston caucus. 

“The program revealed public service opportunities outside traditional congressional or government careers. Whether at a government relations firm or a policy think tank, D.C. offers diverse opportunities to engage with policy, politics and legislation, which can sometimes be more impactful than pursuing a traditional government career. D.C. has inspired me to commit to traveling around the world to learn about more issues. In government, problems arise more quickly than solutions, and the best way to get ahead of arising problems is to educate yourself about issues by seeing them upfront.”


trevino,-dawnDawn Treviño
U.S. Rep. Greg Casar (TX-35)

Dawn Treviño is a senior majoring in political science and minoring in public leadership. Treviño is a proud U.S. Air National Guard service member. Her background in GIS systems and emergency response training has equipped her to better understand the nature of infrastructure projects and the military's role in disasters. While working at a Houston-based public affairs firm, she analyzed qualitative and quantitative research and contributed to policy recommendations for local, state and federal government entities. As a Civic Houston Intern at the East Harris County Empowerment Council, she developed an educational program on environmental justice issues and facilitated classes to create change through civic engagement. She is a Hobby School Next Generation Leadership Academy member passionate about environmental justice, equitable urban development and civil justice issues.

“The Leland Fellows program provided me with an opportunity to see how legislation at the federal level is implemented and processed. I've been able to analyze heavy legislative text and generate simplified memos for senior staffers, which has equipped me with essential skills needed for a career in policy. My favorite aspect of this congressional internship was seeing how the progressive movement works to push initiatives at the federal level. I'm extremely grateful that I could work in a welcoming and supportive office.”

2024 Leland Fellows