Act Six Scholars Interning with Distinguished Minnesota Capitol Pathways Program

Since 2016, Capitol Pathways has placed BIPOC college students in paid internships where they have gained policymaking experience and built relationships in and around the Capitol.

Jesus Gonzalez Ruiz ’25 and Joana Acosta-Palmeros ’23, have been selected to intern in the Minnesota Capitol Pathways program from the Citizens League. The program “opens access to policymaking and public service to the next generation of leaders who are Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC).” It is a paid spring internship program for BIPOC students who are currently enrolled in a two- or four-year college in Minnesota.

Capitol Pathways students gather for first meeting and social 

Gonzalez Ruiz said he learned about the Capitol Pathways opportunity from Sunet Rubalcava, an academic counselor in the Center for Student Success. The program is competitive. After the initial application, the Citizens League reviewed the applications and selected a group of students to be individually interviewed by interested host organizations. Students were then assigned to the host organization best matched for them.

Gonzalez Ruiz is working remotely for the Center for Rural Policy and Development. He said he’s working on a mixture of things.

“The center is open to me taking an exploratory route and working in areas that I find interesting while fulling the internship’s legislative work requirements,” he said. “Some exciting things that I’m fortunate to be a part of include talking on podcasts about my discoveries of rural and urban life, attending legislative sessions, attending some of the center’s board meetings, and meeting with Minnesota’s state legislators.”

Acosta-Palmeros heard about the Capitol Pathways through Concordia’s pre-law emails and from Gonzalez Ruiz who thought it would be a good fit for her. She is working remotely for the Office of the Legislative Auditor (OLA), a nonpartisan, research-heavy group that selects a few topics each year and makes recommendations meant to suggest positive ways to improve organizations or boards.

“It’s definitely a challenge,” Acosta-Palmeros said, “but it's also been incredibly rewarding.”

She reports on findings that relate to OLA and tracks all the recommendations that OLA makes to see if any changes have been implemented.

“I have seen first-hand the amount of work by Judy Randall, our legislative auditor, and my boss, Judi Rodriguez, deputy legislative auditor, and the dedication of OLA employees who become experts over time in creating unbiased, factual recommendations with a focus on transparency,” Acosta-Palmeros said.

“Honestly, I really enjoy this work – it feels like I'm a researcher with my own mini research project,” she added. “It’s also exposed me to the vast amount of topics that OLA covers and how in-depth its recommendations can be. Overall, it's been a great learning experience.”

Acosta-Palmeros and Gonzsalez Ruiz are both also Act Six Scholars. Act Six offers full tuition scholarships that bring together emerging leaders of diverse and multicultural backgrounds who want to make a difference on campus and in their communities.

Acosta-Palmeros credits, Upward Bound, Act Six, and Capitol Pathways with helping her get into college, encouraging her goals, and introducing her to people who are just as passionate about policy work as she is. All three organizations are federally funded or nonprofits centered on advocating for students.

She said being an Act Six Scholar helped her understand and elevate her ideas to pursue a career that she once perceived as unobtainable. “But with the opportunity given to me by Capitol Pathways, it has eliminated barriers that are difficult for BIPOC students to get their footing in policy and created a community full of ambitious and passionate students who just want to do what they can do best in policy and more.”

Gonzalez Ruiz likes to think that Act Six is the reason why he was presented with this opportunity because Act Six is the reason why he was able to attend Concordia College.

“The supportive and community-based environment that Act Six scholars and staff promote has encouraged me to overcome many obstacles and participate in many opportunities,” he said. “It’s because of the community and of the opportunity to attend Concordia College that I was able to partake in Capitol Pathways.”

One of the events the students have been invited to is the Citizens League’s Civic Celebration, “an annual event to support the work and to honor the courageous leadership and dedicated public service of extraordinary Minnesotans. Acosta-Palmeros said she feels like she gets to fulfill her interest in researching – but now with a purpose – and even better, she’s being exposed to many different careers involved in policy.

“My goal after graduation is to give back to my community and encourage others to pursue a career in policy and more,” she said.

Capitol Pathways offers many opportunities for BIPOC students to work with organizations from different industries. Some examples of organizations include NAMI Minnesota, Minnesota Council of Nonprofits, Habitat for Humanity of Minnesota, and Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy. Gonzalez Ruiz said he believes there is an organization in the program that would fit any student’s interest.

“Whichever organization you are matched with, you will meet great people and take away something new from the experience,” he added.