It was just last year that 21 year old Daniel Rocha Herrera tirelessly shoveled the sidewalks and sewers of Columbus, Georgia in the thick of the summer’s heat.
The search for a summer internship had proven to be a frustrating task, so much that the computer engineering major would eventually settle: first for a job in a factory and then as a construction laborer.
As was the case with many undocumented youth at the time, Herrera did not have the legal status to work in the US; this until President Obama signed the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) memorandum that granted certain undocumented young people under the age of 31 a two year, renewable work permit. “The work permit does not give you federal aid, it gives you work and a chance to get a driver’s license” he said.
Already one year later, the JCSU student finds himself reflecting on how amazingly things have changed. Not only did he contentedly prepare for a great internship this summer, but he geared up to join the technology team of the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond.
It all began when the president of the Federal Reserve Bank, Jeffrey Lacker, and his executive team sat down for breakfast and a round-table discussion with a select group of Innovo Scholars and mentors. This was a part of the bank’s efforts to learn about the regions’ energy industry and the different ways colleges and business leaders are collaborating to prepare students for the workforce.
Herrera, like many of the scholars left the breakfast with several notable contacts immediately following up with two: Bill Cooper, the Vice President and Deputy Director of the Office of Diversity and Inclusion, and the President of the Reserve Bank himself. That was November 2013.
Two months later, Cooper contacted Herrera to inquire about his summer plans and to find out whether he was still interested in interning with the bank, “I said of course and then from January to March, we kept in contact,” he said.
The most exciting aspect Herrera shared was the interview. “I was just hoping to nail it. The best part was when she offered me the internship on the spot.”
Reflecting on his past and the scarce resources he had growing up, Herrera calls this his one-in-a-million opportunity. He is especially happy about being the first generation college graduate and the first in his family to achieve something of this magnitude.
Upon graduating Herrera says Washington, D.C. seems to be the ideal place for him to move since technology professionals are in demand there. He also plans on establishing his own computer-based business in the nation’s capital because he favors the variety of cultures it has to offer.