By Walter Villa, Special to STU
Kevin Paez has heard all about the power of a great internship.
After all, Scott Gale – Paez’s professor and mentor at STU — was once an intern in the White House with an office right below that of Vice President Dick Cheney.
Now, just over two decades later, Paez is headed to Washington D.C. after earning his own coveted internship.
Paez is the first STU student ever to be selected by the Congressional Hispanic Leadership Institute for a 16-week Global Leaders Internship. Only eight students nation-wide are chosen each semester, and this is the 20th anniversary of the organization.
Better yet for Paez, he was granted his first choice and will be interning for Congressman Mario Diaz-Balart, starting on January 29, 2024.
“Pure excitement,” said Paez, who immediately called his mother and then texted Professor Gale when he found out that he would be interning for Diaz-Balart.
“He (Diaz-Balart) has always been my inspiration. Like me, he is a Cuban-American from Miami, and the focus of his legislation is usually on giving opportunities to young people and helping them succeed.”
Paez, 21, played high school basketball at Florida Christian, and he enrolled at St. Thomas University with the goal of becoming a sports agent.
But something happened to Paez while enrolled at STU.
“I started to really like politics,” said Paez, who is focused on graduating from law school by 2027. “I changed my major to Political Science, which is what my mother (Frances Paez) studied in college.”
About a year ago, Paez took a class taught by Scott Gale, a Political Science professor and a pre-law advisor.
For Paez, this was a life-changing event.
Now, Paez had a teacher in the truest sense of the word.
Now, Paez had a mentor.
Now, Paez had – in a sense – a shortcut to success.
“Meeting Professor Gale helped me avoid a lot of mistakes,” Paez said. “Having him as my mentor has helped me grow at a rapid pace.”
Paez, with a 3.843 grade-point average, has quickly earned the respect of Professor Gale.
“He’s always working harder to be at the top of his class,” Gale said of Paez. “He wants to be measured against the rest of the country in terms of his academic performance.”
It was Professor Gale who encouraged Paez to start a student organization.
“I told Professor Gale, “I wouldn’t be opposed to it, but I don’t know how,’” Paez said.
Paez gave it some thought and soon became the founder and inaugural president of the Political Science Student Organization, which began with eight officers.
“In no time, Kevin’s organization became one of the most active on campus,” Professor Gale said. “They held numerous events on campus.”
Perhaps Paez’s grandest accomplishment so far was the on-campus speech he gave on Constitution Day.
Before a full-house crowd at STU’s College of Law Judge Peter T. Fay Moot Court Room, Paez delivered under difficult circumstances.
First, he followed STU President David A. Armstrong, J.D. – not an easy task. Secondly, Paez introduced Florida Secretary of State Cord Byrd.
“Kevin was so nervous that his legs were shaking,” Professor Gale said. “But, for a young man making his first major speech, he was very impressive.
“I think it will become the first of many public speeches for Kevin.”
Paez admitted he was nervous before that speech, but he also said he felt well prepared.
Fittingly, that knack for research and readiness is what helped Paez secure his internship. With the help of Professor Gale, Paez spent four and sometimes five nights a week working on his application. The application process took three weeks to complete.
“There were multiple drafts,” Paez said. “We did extensive research for several hours per night.”
Next stop: Washington D.C. …