Local News

Lake Placid native lands D.C. internship

— A Lake Placid native – the daughter of migrant farm workers – has won a coveted Washington, D.C. internship that she hopes will lead to a career practicing family law.

Yesenia Calderon, 23, is one of four interns chosen in a nationwide search by the National Migrant & Seasonal Head Start Association. Through that association, she will spend this summer working for the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund.

“I’m super excited,” Calderon said. “When I got the news, I called at least 10 people on my contact list. I Googled Washington, D.C. for about two weeks.”

Calderon’s internship is rooted in her childhood, which she spent migrating twice each year between Florida’s citrus groves and North Carolina’s farms. In Lake Placid, that rugged lifestyle entitled little Calderon to attend a Migrant Head Start childcare center operated by Redlands Christian Migrant Association.

Migrant & Seasonal Head Start is a sub-program within the federally funded Head Start program, which provides quality childcare and other help to low-income families.

RCMA, a nonprofit corporation based in Immokalee, is Florida’s largest provider of Migrant & Seasonal Head Start services.

In Lake Placid, Calderon attended RCMA each winter from 1990 to 1995. Nineteen years later, in her senior year at the University of Central Florida, Calderon’s RCMA ties entitled her to apply for the internship with NMSHSA. An RCMA manager and a former middle school teacher each sent her an application. She became one of 38 applicants nationwide.

NMSHSA’s members are people who work in – or benefit from – the Migrant & Seasonal Head Start program. They meet regularly to discuss common issues and concerns.

Cleo Rodriguez Jr., NMSHSA’s executive director, was on the interviewing panel that Calderon faced. “She was just outstanding,” Rodriguez said. “She was sharp, articulate. She had a good plan for what she wanted to do. Her enthusiasm made the decision easier.”

Calderon hopes to enter law school after the eight-week internship ends in August. She wants to practice family law so she can help people escape bad marriages.

She credits much of her success to her mother, Maria Barragan. “My mom has been my everything throughout the years,” she said.