TCE Internship Fund Q&A: Leonardo Garcia
Internship Fund Recipient: Leonardo Garcia
Majors: Sociology and Race, Indigeneity and Migration (RIM), College of Liberal Arts
Internship: Equal Justice Center (EJC)
Meet An Intern: Leonardo Garcia
Internships are indisputably valuable—they can help you discover new interests, network in
your chosen industry and better prepare you for life after graduation—but they don’t always
come with compensation. The University of Texas at Austin is committed to making sure
Longhorns of all financial situations can pursue the internships that will help them grow,
whether they’re paid or not. Hence, Texas Career Engagement (TCE)’s Internship Fund, which
launched in May 2021. Through this new program, currently enrolled graduate and
undergraduate UT students experiencing financial barriers to accepting unpaid internships can
apply for funding equivalent to a $15 hour wage. In 2022, TCE awarded a total of $331,436 to
101 students participating in unpaid internships.
One of those students was Leonardo Garcia, an undergraduate in the College of Liberal Arts
who is pursuing double majors in Sociology and Race, Indigeneity and Migration (RIM). Garcia,
who will graduate in 2025, spent last summer interning with the Equal Justice Center (EJC), an
non-profit law firm that supports low-income Austin families, workers and communities,
regardless of immigration status.
What was the focus of your internship?
Interning with committed employee law lawyers and detail-oriented paralegal professionals
was a privilege. Under their guidance, I was proud to learn the ropes and apply employment
law at the state and federal levels on a case-by-case basis. Cultivating my knowledge and
thereby growing my confidence to help clients through the legal world of employment law was
fulfilling in every scenario.
Did this internship help you grow professionally?
After my summer with the EJC, my career now has a strong toolkit of knowing how to empower
workers and assure them the respect they deserve. As a child growing up in a community of
immigrants, tales of worker exploitation were the norm. Going into my position at the EJC, I
knew I would work firsthand with the community that made me who I am. I am proud of my
work, including growing a new professional mindset: no matter how intimidating someone may
be because of their careers, they are human and not robots! I know now that I want to continue
doing community-centered employment law. Having a community receive justice rather than
continuations of exploitations is the goal.
How did being an Internship Fund recipient impact your experience?
Besides being able to afford necessities, such as rent and gas expenses, the fund also allowed
me to not work as much as I would have without it. I averaged about 20 hours of work and 12
hours at the EJC per week. Had I not been helped by the fund, I would have had to work more
time and could have dealt with burnout. I hope my story encourages others to apply to the fund
and participate in internships with lesser worry about financial constraints.
Ready to follow in Leonardo’s footsteps? Applications for Summer 2023 internship funding will
open on Tuesday, March 21.