Home to Texas Q&A: Casey Carreon, Class of 2026

Home to Texas Participant: Casey Carreon, Class of 2026

Majors: Economics and Speech, Language and Hearing Sciences
Minors and Certificates: Business and Computer Science
Hometown: Beaumont, Texas
Internship: Nederland Economic Development Corporation

During the summer of 2023, UT student, Casey Carreon, participated in the Home to Texas program. At the end of the internship, we spoke with Ms. Carreon about her experience as an intern in the Home to Texas program.

Home to Texas, an initiative started by the IC2 Institute and currently managed by The University of Texas at Austin’s Undergraduate College and Texas Career Engagement, pairs first-year undergraduate Longhorns of all majors with scholarship-funded internships and research experiences in their hometowns across the state.

What drew you to Home to Texas in the first place?

My sister is the one who told me about the program because she was actually about to participate in it before she found another internship in Austin. What drew me to Home to Texas was the opportunity of being paired with an employer in your hometown. Coming home for the summer after my first year of college was already extremely ideal, and even better when you get hands-on work experience that will be so valuable towards future endeavors. I was fortunate to have interned in Nederland because I got to make connections with the residents and the business owners there and make myself more familiar with that community.

What have been the highlights of your time at the Nederland Economic Development Corporation (EDC)?

One thing that I really appreciate about my internship is that everything is super engaging and hands-on. There are only two other people who work in the office with me, the EDC Executive Director [Kay DeCuir] and her temporary secretary, so the workplace environment is relatively intimate. My favorite days at work are whenever we drive around the city—whether we’re exploring new areas for potential new businesses, going to city council meetings, coordinating with 85+ small businesses for a local market day event or working on the downtown revitalization project.

A highlight of my time here has been participating in the downtown revitalization project. I was able to help demolish an old home and collaborate with important stakeholders in determining aesthetics, design, and what businesses could contribute to the new project. Another highlight was meeting with the people involved in the architecture and power lines because it helped me gain a deeper understanding of those intricacies in projects that no one really sheds light on. 

Have there been times during Home to Texas where you’ve made connections between your internship and what you’ve learned in class at UT?

Oh, yeah, definitely! Last semester, I took microeconomics with Professor Dirk Mateer, which changed the trajectory of my life [Laughs]. I really enjoyed applying what I learned from class to real-world scenarios like the market day we coordinated. I applied concepts such as supply and demand and the impact of price on buyers and consumer behavior, which helped me ensure that the market day was facilitated thoroughly and ran smoothly. In addition, the construction concerning the revitalization project made me think of those economic externalities we learned about in class. We also learned about incentives in that class and we’ve offered multiple economic incentives to local businesses to make changes in the city for everyone’s benefit. That class has come in handy with what I do at the EDC and I’m glad it was fresh on my mind. 

How has your Home to Texas experience changed your understanding of Nederland?

Nederland and my hometown, Beaumont, are conveniently located 25 minutes away from one another. When I was still in high school and lived in Beaumont, I only knew Nederland as a place with a really good boba shop. There are two or three boba places in Beaumont, but I would refuse to go there and was always insistent on making that 25-minute commute to go to Nederland. [Laughs] But having worked in Nederland for three months, I’ve really learned to appreciate the support that the residents have there for one another and how close-knit and family-oriented everybody is. That small-town charm and simplicity will always have a place in my heart. All the people I’ve been introduced to have been so kind to me, and they’re all interconnected with one another. They make it very clear that they will always be there for their coworkers, friends and others.

How will this internship impact the rest of your college career and your professional life post-graduation?

That market day I coordinated made me a lot more interested in entrepreneurship and running my own business. I know that UT offers an Entrepreneurship minor and that’s something I’ve been looking at. But considering how dynamic, engaging and hands-on my internship has been, I believe that I have honed my pre-existing skillset and gained more of those real-world insights. Those will ultimately shape my academic pursuits and future goals that I have in life. I’ve always been a hands-on learner, so it is super fortunate that my internship was structured like that. 

If you had to pick one memory from your Home to Texas experience that was emblematic of what you’ve learned, what would it be?

It’s not a memory, but someone who really shaped the program and made the experience enjoyable is my supervisor [Kay DeCuir]. She’s very hard-working, she’s well-respected in the city and she’s involved in so many things—the school board, the Rotary Club, her own real estate firm—and she’s the Executive Director of the EDC. She’s inspired me to take full advantage of the knowledge and skill set that I have and she makes me want to learn about new things every day. In addition, she helped me gain the newly-found passion I have for enacting initiatives and positive change in smaller communities—because I came from one myself. She drives me to want to seek my own personal and professional development consistently. Her passion for work and learning and who she is as a person has already had a huge effect on who I am.

Do you have any advice for students considering applying to Home to Texas?

I definitely remember attending the orientation Zoom and thinking to myself, “An 8 to 5 job? How am I going to manage that?!” Prior to this internship, I had never worked full-time and when I’m home for the summer I usually want to spend lots of time with family and friends. But if I hadn’t done this program, I would have regretted it because I’ve learned so much and I know that it’s going to be so valuable to me in the future. All the things I’ve got to experience have truly shaped me into a more developed, professional individual. I’m so grateful for this unique opportunity that has taught me so much. Everybody should participate in it!