Two University of Texas of the Permian Basin students got a chance to be part of the Archer Center Fellowship Program this fall in Washington, D.C.
Obie Bafour and Crystal Guevara were among 48 fellows from UT schools throughout Texas spending the fall semester in the nation’s capital. Participants are juniors and seniors.
The fellowship includes internships in some of the highest offices in the country and classes in things like the history of Washington, D.C., advocacy and public policy.
Bafour said he would graduate in the fall and Guevara will walk the stage in May. Bafour is working toward concurrent degrees in business marketing and political science and Guevara expects to graduate with a bachelor’s degree in political science.
Born in Ghana in West Africa, Bafour lived in Canada for 15 years before attending UTPB. For the fellowship, he interned for Innocents at Risk, an organization that tries to raise awareness of human trafficking, and U.S. Rep. Andy Biggs, R-Arizona.
Guevara was stationed at the U.S. Department of Education in the Office of Communications and Outreach.
Bafour said having two internships was “very hectic.”
“But I was determined. I really wanted the best of both worlds,” he said.
Bafour added that he went to Innocents at Risk in Georgetown three times a week that took about an hour each way to get to. Thursday and Friday, he walked to Biggs’ office which took about 30 minutes each way.
Despite the extra effort, Bafour said the experience was phenomenal. He expressed thanks to the Archer Center, UTPB and JBS Public Leadership Institute for the opportunity.
As a foreign student, Bafour said he didn’t know how the American political system worked, but the internships shed some light. He said was also responsible for constituent tours for Biggs’ office and learned how bills make their way through Congress and how committees work.
Innocents at Risk Founder Deborah Sigmund would talk to different members of Congress to raise awareness.
“Most of the work that we did there was putting together fundraisers and I learned the intricacies of that business. It gave me a perspective on how to advocate for a cause, so I really enjoyed that internship for that purpose. Both internships were great and I think it’s great for students that they can get a hands-on experience, rather than just reading about it,” Bafour said.
Bafour said he has always been interested in government and has been involved in the Student Senate at UTPB. This experience has sparked more interest.
He added that if people contact their representatives, they do respond. Bafour said staff takes notes on what people call about and he actually witnessed Biggs talking to a constituent on the phone.
He was also interested in charities for good causes. Growing up in Africa, he heard stories of Ghanaians going to work in Dubai and other places. Bafour said he was also intrigued by the level of human trafficking in the United States.
“I want to stay here,” he said. “I think that UTPB, as a school, as an institution has helped me realize this dream of graduating. …”
A native Midlander, Guevara grew up in Lubbock and graduated from Lubbock-Cooper High School.
Before taking on the Archer Fellowship, Guevara studied abroad in Italy. When she returned, she applied for the fellowship.
Press releases or anything to do with constituents went through the office Guevara worked in. She added that she dealt with educators from all over the country.
“My supervisor was the teacher liaison, so if any teachers had any problems they would contact her. She would tell them and talk to them and advise them. There were student liaisons, parent liaisons, minority liaisons. What I did was talk to stakeholders and just bring everyone together from the federal government to the local level to teachers in the classrooms,” Guevara said.
Prospective Archer fellows have to file five to 10 internship applications. Guevara said she wanted to focus on the Latino community or education.
“It was amazing. I went into the department thinking that they are going to be these stuck-up people with black suits (who) just didn’t smile, but it was actually a very relaxing environment. Everyone was very caring. The people that I worked with actually really did care about educators and education policy to make it better for the students, the parents, for teachers, for everyone,” she said.
The building Guevara worked in housed about 4,000 people and that was one of five buildings for education in Washington. Guevara said she did meet Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos about five times.
“I thought the federal government would just tell state and local governments how to run their schools. However, I learned that in this current administration schools are given more control on how to run their schools, so it gave me a pretty great background on how education policy affects every level of government and every student, every teacher, every counselor and every principal,” Guevara said.
Ultimately, Guevara wants to attend law school and focus on immigration, but the internship got her thinking about using her skills in education.
“… I initially knew that education was very important, however, in a lot of articles that I read it stated that if the kids have a role model to look up to that looks like them, then there’s a greater chance they’ll graduate high school and go to college. So I thought maybe could be a teacher for a year. If not that, I could be a lawyer for education policy,” Guevara said.
University of Texas of the Permian Basin student Crystal Guevara, talks about her experience as an Archer Fellow after spending the past semester in Washington, D.C.
BY MARK STERKEL
Archer fellow Obie Bafour talks about his experience in Washington, D.C., this fall.
Ruth Campbell/Odessa American