From Edinburg to Capitol Hill

Photo above: Matthew Rodriguez (left) and Anthony Hernandez (right), from Edinburg celebrating in their cap and gowns in Washington D.C. as both UTRGV students prepared for graduation, May 11. Both took part in the Archer Fellowship Program, which provides students in the UT System opportunities to develop their skills in local, state, federal and international public service, through internships and experiential learning. (UTRGV Courtesy Photo)

By Matthew Cavazos, UTRGV Communications

Edinburg, Texas – Two UTRGV seniors spent their final undergraduate semester in Washington, D.C., as part of the Archer Fellowship Program, interning for the Office of U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries.

The Archer Center provides students in the UT System opportunities to develop their skills in local, state, federal and international public service, through internships and experiential learning.

As UTRGV students, they had similar destinations, and while their paths diverged a bit during the fellowship, the lessons learned will serve them well now, as new UTRGV graduates, as they launch their individual careers in politics.


Anthony Hernandez, from Edinburg, graduated from UTRGV on Saturday, May 11, during the 12:30 p.m. commencement ceremony at the Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in English.

His first experience in a congressional office came when he applied for the VLIP program and was accepted as one of 11 students from UTRGV, working in the Office of Texas Rep. Janie Lopez.

“It was my first ever venture into congressional politics,” Hernandez said. “Before this, I knew I had an interest in government and I knew I wanted to make something of myself in the U.S. government, on some level. I didn’t really know how to go about that until I was introduced to VLIP.”

Hernandez said he learned valuable skills while serving as a legislative aide, administrative aide, and co-director of the Digital Strategy Team for the 88th Legislative Session.

“The experience helped open up dozens of doors and really gave me an opportunity to further my career and segway into the Archer Fellowship program,” he said.

As a VLIP intern, Hernandez was assigned a mentor to connect with on a weekly or biweekly basis. Toward the end of the internship, Hernandez spoke with his mentor about other opportunities, including the Archer program.

“I was probably halfway through VLIP before I started thinking about what comes next,” Hernandez said. “We were assigned mentors through the UT System. We would go and grab coffee every couple of weeks.”

“I brought Archer up to her and it turns out she works with the program as one of the outreach personnel,” Hernandez said. “The next day, I was in the library and noticed that the application closed in about a week, so I reached out, filled out the application and hoped for the best.”

As it turned out, the best was indeed yet to come for Hernandez. He was accepted into the Archer program a month later, and soon would be working on The Hill in Washington, D.C.

Hernandez started his internship with the Office of U.S. Rep. Hakeem Jeffries in spring 2024, working in the personnel and policy office, where he was able to work closely with senior policy advisors.

“The Archer gave me the opportunity to work with a really great internship,” Hernandez said. “It encourages you to seek out whatever legislative priorities you may have interest in. Apart from working on policy, we attended meetings on behalf of the office, scheduled events around the capitol, and assisted through operations and administrative tasks.”

As part of his duties, Hernandez often was the first person visitors would speak to when voicing their opinions.

“The main role of a legislative intern is to be the face of the office, so you need to make sure you’re in tiptop shape. Greet people with a smile. Be ready to take their message,” Hernandez said. “Some people just want to be heard, and I understand that. As someone from the outside looking in, it can seem like Congress, or the government, doesn’t listen to the people. Because of people like me, and Matt (Rodriguez) and the other Archer fellows, we can help bridge that gap between the people and their government.”

Hernandez returns to the Valley this week, as he plans to attend three graduations: His sister and brother are graduating from middle school and high school, respectively. Then, on Saturday, he crosses the stage himself to accept his degree.

He heads back to Washington, D.C., on May 13 and will room with friends he made during the Archer program, with the goal of working on The Hill.

Hernandez plans to attend law school within the next couple of years, and hopes, eventually, to settle in the Valley to serve the people of his community.

“After law school, I would like to return to the Texas House and serve as a chief of staff or general counsel to one of the representatives I admire and respect,” Hernandez said. “And I would like to return to the Rio Grande Valley, not only to start a family, but also to run for office myself.”


Matthew Rodriguez, from Pharr, graduated from UTRGV on Saturday, May 11, during the 12:30 commencement ceremony on the at Bert Ogden Arena in Edinburg. He earned a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, along with three minors: Legal Studies, Mass Communication and History.

Rodriguez has always had an interest in government, and he and his mother started a tradition where they would sit together and watch the State of the Union Address live.

He would look in awe as the president stood tall and addressed the nation, and thusly inspired, Rodriguez decided to pursue his passion via the power of the Press.

“I interned with The Monitor,” Rodriguez said. “I wrote newspaper articles for about five months. Then, realized I wanted to be in the policy-making process.”

Consequently, he interned with U.S. Rep. Vicente Gonzalez, who was representing District 15-McAllen. Rodriguez worked with constituents on a variety of issues, including inquiries about passports, federal services and other assistance programs.

After the Gonzalez internship, he applied for a Capitol Internship through the UTRGV Legislative Internship Program (VLIP). He was accepted and interned in Austin during the 88th Texas Legislative Session for the Office of Texas Sen. Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa.

“I loved it. It was an amazing experience and they taught me the ins and outs of the Capitol,” Rodriguez said. “After that, they offered me a full-time position in the Edinburg office, and I worked there for about a year.”

Matthew Rodriguez, from Pharr, graduates from UTRGV on Saturday, May 11, with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science, along with three minors: Legal Studies, Mass Communication and History. (Courtesy Photo)

Upon returning to UTRGV, Rodriguez saw posters in the Liberal Arts building about the Archer Fellowship and decided to apply.

“I thought it was an amazing opportunity,” Rodriguez said. “To allow students from the Valley to intern in the federal sector. I learned that you always want to shoot your shot because you never know where you will end up.”

Rodriguez was accepted into the program and started his Archer internship in Rep. Jeffries’ office in the spring.

He worked on the House Floor, in the Democratic Cloakroom, a coveted spot where, according to the Cloakroom’s website, “Members and staff rely on the cloakroom managers for legislative updates and the current status of the house … The cloakroom provides Members the ability to converse, relax, discuss legislative strategy, or prepare for Floor business.”

“I never thought I would be here within the federal sector,” said Rodriguez. “Growing up as a first-generation college student, I never thought it would be possible for me to be in government. I’m just thankful to UTRGV for providing the experiences, resources and connections for me to be here.”

In keeping with the tradition, Rodriguez’s mom sat, alone this time, in her living room to watch the 2024 State of the Union, when she saw a familiar face in the crowd of 500!

Rodriguez said he knew she was smiling from ear to ear when he got her text – an image of him, standing alongside the leaders of the United States.

“During the State of the Union, I texted my mom to look up at the screen,” Rodriguez said. “My mom responded with a photo of her pointing at me on the screen. It was a special moment where we were so far away from each other, but still felt together.”

Rodriguez returns to the Valley this week to attend his graduation ceremony on Saturday, then flies back to Washington, D.C., on May 13 to start a three-month internship with the Committee on Homeland Security.

“My short-term goal is to focus on the national security sector,” Rodriguez said. “I plan on applying to law school within the next couple of years, and then jump into an agency as a legal counsel.”

He is not ruling out a career-focused return to the Valley.

“I miss home. I miss the Valley. I want to be involved in creating a better environment for the next generation,” Rodriguez said.


The Archer Center website says: “The Archer Center is where Texas meets the world. As the Washington, D.C., campus of the University of Texas System, the Center provides talented undergraduate and graduate students from across the UT System with the opportunity to live, learn, and intern in the nation’s capital.” As an Archer fellow, students are required to take 15 archer credits that are held in Washington, D.C., and taught by professors that currently worked or previously worked in a multitude of capacities throughout the United States government.