Thursday, April 13, 2023
  Student Life, Around Campus, Community

By Amanda Alaniz

RIO GRANDE VALLEY, TEXAS – APRIL 13, 2023 – Eleven UTRGV students went to Austin this year for the 88th legislative sessions assigned to Rio Grande Valley legislators.

The Texas Legislature operates under a biennial system, convening regular sessions on the second Tuesday in January of odd-numbered years, and the UTRGV students had an opportunity to intern with several of the Valley’s legislators.

The internships are made possible through the UTRGV Legislative Internship Program (VLIP).

The students who interned are:

  • Hector Chapa, senior, political science major, from Mission.
  • Zeila Chavez, senior, political science major, from Pharr.
  • Lizette Galaviz, senior, political science major, from Kingsville.
  • Mireya Garcia, senior, political science major, from Harlingen.
  • Roberto Garcia Jr., junior, political science major, from Mission.
  • Anthony Hernandez, junior, political science major, from Edinburg.
  • Karina Lucio, junior, political science major, from Edinburg.
  • Derek Luna, junior, finance major, from Mission.
  • Sontino Mann, senior, political science major, from Pharr.
  • Jocelyne Montelongo, senior, philosophy major, from Brownsville.
  • Matthew Rodriguez, senior, political science major, from Pharr.

Richard P. Sanchez, associate vice president for UTRGV Governmental and Community Relations, oversees the VLIP.

The program is an important one, he said, because it offers UTRGV students a “real world experience.”

“Our students are completely immersed. They are learning about the workplace and about being professional. They are improving their writing skills and communication,” Sanchez said. “They’re learning that all these things matter, and they are improving their resumé and building their future.”

The internship also provides students an opportunity to scope out what career direction they would prefer within the political arena.

Sanchez said he hopes students can hone specific skills that will help them with their future, he said.

“The internship has so much to offer. We want the students to have fun, but also network. Who knows? You might meet a future colleague in Austin. Or even a future employer,” he said. “We want our students to be successful in their endeavors because of what they were able to learn from this internship, and what they are learning at UTRGV.”


Roberto Garcia Jr., a junior political science major, currently is interning for District 40 State Rep. Terry Canales, chairman of the Transportation Committee. Garcia’s duties vary from day to day and include creating bill analysis and talking points for certain bills and answering phone calls.

The Mission native said that what drew him to apply for the internship was the wealth of professional opportunities it would afford by “being at the center of it all at the State Capitol.”

UTRGV students in Austin
Eleven UTRGV students went to Austin this year for the 88th legislative sessions assigned to Rio Grande Valley legislators. The internships are made possible through the UTRGV Legislative Internship Program. (Courtesy Photo)

“This internship will without a doubt benefit my future career because of the amount of experience that it brings as well as the people that I meet working here every day,” said Garcia, who hopes to apply for law school and become a lawyer. “Networking is a big part of the internship and will help me meet new and important people who, ultimately, will benefit me in the future.”

He said he is looking forward to the new internship opportunity and wants to come back home equipped to help his community.

“The Valley and its people have nurtured me with love and hope. I want to give that back through my professional career,” Garcia said. “I want to ensure that future generations of South Texans have the same or better opportunities than I had while growing up.”

Fellow intern, Matthew Rodriguez, a senior political science major and legal studies minor, is interning with District 20 Texas Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa. He originally was a mass communication major, but after completing a few internships with a local newspaper, he was driven to learn more about the government, and changed his major.

“It is interesting to think that our government reflects our interests,” he said.

Rodriguez, a Pharr resident, said he is looking forward to learning more about the workings of the Texas Legislature during the active session. He already had previous experience with internships with the State Legislature, with Congressman Vicente Gonzalez’s Office in McAllen and with the Hidalgo County District Attorney’s Office under Ricardo Rodriguez.

Zeila Chavez, a senior political science major with a minor in criminal justice, is joining fellow undergraduates in Austin as an intern for Sen. Judith Zaffirini, District 2. Before applying for VLIP, Chavez said, she completed an internship with the Legislative Budget Board.

A friend told her about the program and said it would help her see the political side of things.

The internship, she said, gives her access to networks.

“It is a great learning experience to be here, working and living on my own and understanding what I love or don’t love about work and what I want to do more of,” she said.

Chavez, a first-generation student, said her family guided her in the direction of politics.

“I remember being a kid and worrying about my family being separated or hearing about another apprehension at the border, not to mention the stories of injustice lived by other immigrants,” she said. “I decided I wanted to do something about it and decided I wanted to go to college and study political science.”

The interns started their internship in January and will finish May 29, marking the end of the 88th Session of the Texas Legislature.

To learn more about the UTRGV Legislative Internship Program (VLIP), visit or contact Sanchez at


The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) was created by the Texas Legislature in 2013 as the first major public university of the 21st century in Texas. This transformative initiative provided the opportunity to expand educational opportunities in the Rio Grande Valley, including a new School of Medicine, and made it possible for residents of the region to benefit from the Permanent University Fund – a public endowment contributing support to the University of Texas System and other institutions.

UTRGV has campuses and off-campus research and teaching sites throughout the Rio Grande Valley including in Boca Chica Beach, Brownsville (formerly The University of Texas at Brownsville campus), Edinburg (formerly The University of Texas-Pan American campus), Harlingen, McAllen, Port Isabel, Rio Grande City, and South Padre Island. UTRGV, a comprehensive academic institution, enrolled its first class in the fall of 2015, and the School of Medicine welcomed its first class in the summer of 2016.