The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences

Notes from the Field: Fakoneiry Perez '15

Article Type 
Student Intern: Fakoneiry Perez '15

Internship Organization:
US Department of Education – Washington, DC

How would you describe your employer in one paragraph? What’s the elevator pitch?
This is my second internship at the Department of Education (DOE). Steven Hicks, my supervisor, started his career in education as a substitute teacher in California. After a few years of teaching Kindergarten and First Grade at a charter school in South Los Angeles, he arrived at the Department of Education through the Teacher Ambassador program. Today he serves as Special Assistant on Early Learning in the Office of Early Learning in the Office of Elementary and Secondary Education. His interests include early learning, early literacy, and project approach. As someone who has been named Teacher of the Year in the LA County, and helped to train teachers across the state of California, my supervisor remains passionate about spreading access to quality preschool programs for all children in the nation. It was fascinating for me to learn about his personal background with teaching and that he initially did not plan on entering the education field.

What are your specific responsibilities in the organization?
Currently, the Office of Early Learning, in collaboration with the Department of Health and Human Services, is working on releasing a new Preschool Development Grant competition. As part of this project, I have been tasked with editing the competition guidelines. I also assist the Office of Legislation and Congressional Affairs with research projects relating upcoming meetings with congress members. I am also a part of a Preschool to Third Grade working group. I initially joined the group in January when I started to work with the Department. The group focuses on several issues concerning the birth to third-grade age group, including literacy retention policies and opportunity gaps. For the duration of the Summer, my main role in the group is to produce a deliverable on the Third Grade Guarantee and effective literacy intervention, which will hopefully be published by the end of the summer. In creating this document, I have worked with several experts in the policy field and I have learned a lot about the initiatives currently taking place across the country.

How did you feel on the first day of your internship?
The first day back at my internship was a lot more interesting and overwhelming than I expected. I understand that it was an interesting case in that interns do not usually return to the same organization after only three months of being away. However, I was elated that the members of the office were all eager to see me again and to have me back at the office. Because I was already very familiar with the setting and the kind of work the office does, it was easy to complete the security and ID process and get straight to work. On that very same day, I attended two individual meetings and I was tasked with several long-term projects.

What is your favorite part of the internship so far?
The most rewarding part of my internship experience so far has been seeing one of my projects be successful and well-received among my co-workers and several members of the competition team. I was tasked with assembling a chart and a few algorithms with potential funding uses for the preschool grants and several key pieces of information about each state's preschool programs. As an intern, I think that a big priority was to prove myself and to let everyone in the office see that although I am a college student, I am a capable and responsible individual. This was the first project through which I allowed others to see this.

What challenges have you faced so far?
My biggest challenge in the organization so far has been connecting with my fellow interns. Based on my personal experience, I have noticed that it is easier to bond with employees who have been in the organization for a while than with interns. We are each trying to excel at our positions individually, and I've noticed that there is a particularly competitive nature in our coexistence in the office. My response to this challenge is to try to be as communicative as possible. Whenever we have to work together, I try my best to share the work load and maintain an amicable rapport. I have also noticed that as we get more comfortable in the office we have also started to trust each other more and develop a friendlier relationship.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of your internship?
Aside from a deeper understanding of the policy-making system, I hope to acquire a more extensive knowledge of the career field as a whole. Throughout my time here, I have learned that there are a number of careers in the Department that I was not previously aware of. I think it would be extremely beneficial for me to learn more about these alternative career paths as I have always had a very limited knowledge of them. Additionally, I would like to finish and publish the deliverable I have been working on and incorporate parts of my work here into my education certification work at school.

What have been some practical lessons you've learned in the day-to-day life of your internship?
I learned that the metro fare changes depending on distance traveled and the time at which you are traveling. Stand on the right side of the escalator and walk on the left unless you're in the mood for a rude DC awakening. The "Metro DC" smartphone app is a lifesaver. It lets you see where the closest bus and metro stops are and how long until the next bus or metro. Getting to Georgetown is difficult at best if you have a sense of where you're going. The Uber app is also great, especially if you're going to or from Georgetown. Some of my favorite shopping places are the National Mall outlets and the Annapolis outlets. People in Washington, DC are generally bolder and more honest than I was used to. On a daily basis, I was approached for money, food, clothing and any other random item you can think of. When looking for a place to live, avoid going too far east or west, as it is generally unsafe. Washington, DC is also home to Gallaudet University, a college for the deaf. This explains the large number of people speaking in sign language.

Rockefeller Center-funded interns reflect on their experiences as part of our Notes from the Field series. The Rockefeller Center helps students find, fund, and prepare for a leave-term internship experience in public policy research, public policy analysis, issue evaluation, or activities which help shape and determine public policy.



The Nelson A. Rockefeller Center for Public Policy and the Social Sciences