Veronica Guevara can't help but speak up about the things that matter to her. It's in her bones.
She views everyone as part of one community. So, advocating for marginalized populations seems like a no-brainer.
"To me, it's effortless," she said. "If you do well, I do well."
T-R PHOTO BY DAVID ALEXANDER
Veronica Guevara talks about her parents influence on her at Las YaQuesitas bakery, 23 E. Main St., Friday evening and how it impacted her getting the selective Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute internship on Capitol Hill. Guevara is one of 12 students selected for the internship throughout the country and the only one from the Midwest.
That drive and dedication to community improvement has earned her a selective internship on Capitol Hill. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI) accepts 12 interns for the spring semester in Washington, D.C. Guevara is one of those 12.
The institute's requirements are academic, referential and community oriented.
Scott Gunderson Rosa, director of public relations and media for CHCI, said the non-partisan board looks for students with strong motivation to improve their communities.
"We do look for kids who are engaged in giving back," he said. "It's one of the pillars."
Each of the interns will be placed in a Congressional office where they will spend four days a week attending meetings, writing memos and performing other odd jobs.
One day a week the interns will attend workshops and other presentations, Gunderson Rosa said.
The idea, he said, is to get young people excited about government and to have them take that excitement back to their hometowns and infect others with it.
"We are preparing them so they can come back and contribute," he said. "They get to see exactly how bills are passed ... it inspires them to want to be a bigger part of that."
He said the internship is all about encouraging a ripple effect and giving students access to things to which they wouldn't otherwise have access.
Everyone seems to agree: Veronica is the kind of person to whom internships, like the one at the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, should be awarded - she is driven, focused, intelligent, professional and empowered.
And she makes it look effortless. Those who know her were unsurprised that the institute awarded Guevara the highly-selective internship.
"Veronica is a student with a lot of potential," Gabriela Rivera, program specialist at the University of Iowa's Center for Diversity & Enrichment, said. "I am very impressed with her dedication and passion and leadership, not just in the academic sense, but also in her community."
Rivera said the way Guevara uses social media and reaches out to fellow students and community members distinguishes her from many people.
Chris Duree, chancellor at Marshalltown Community College, as well as other sources, said Guevara works hard to break down barriers for underrepresented populations.
Joa LaVille, youth services director at the Marshalltown Public Library, worked with her when Guevara was employed at the library. The two also work together on the local Immigrant Allies committee.
People like Guevara, 20, LaVille said, are few-and-far-between, and recognizing and encouraging them at a young age pays dividends.
"She is going to pay back any investment in her tenfold," she said. "She is going to make the world a better place."
Guevara isn't stopping with the internship. Well on her way to a political science degree, she wants to one day run for an office.
"I don't feel accomplished yet," she said.
Her parents raised her to respect others, which, she said has helped get her to where she is. With that value instilled in her, she has the ability to speak her mind and still consider the opinions of others.
"If I disagree with what you say, I am going to let you know," she said.
Another big part of Guevara's desire to help others is her ability to understand and look outside the volatile environments people on society's periphery often find themselves.
Perhaps that is because Guevara is no stranger to trouble. When she was in high school, Guevara got into hot water with school officials. It's how she met Eric Weeden.
Weeden, client services coordinator with Marshall County juvenile court services, said when Guevara began helping out with court services Friday Nights program - a program designed to help fifth and sixth graders with discipline problems - she brought an inside perspective to the after-school program.
She was able to better relate to the kids because she had been there herself.
"I have sat where you sat when I was younger," Guevara said, recalling what she would tell those youth in the program. "Even if you don't have support at home or support at school, there is someone out there to support you."
Tipping the scales
Despite her involvement with helping youth get on the right track, Guevara said she doesn't see herself as a role model.
She simply aims to help tip the scales of justice as best she can. She said the 2006 raids at JBS, where her father works, were a catalyst to her thirst for social balance. She called the revelation a great awakening.
That situation brought many issues, including pervading racism, into crisp focus for her.
"Instead of focusing on the seed, you need to focus on the soil to allow the seed to flourish," she said.
It was then that she realized that the only way to tip those scales is to become involved as an advocate.
The Capitol Hill internship, she hopes, will give her insight into the political process, which she can in turn bring back to her community and use to empower others.
"Advocating and being involved is a way of always giving back to your community," she said.