The Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute unexpectedly dismissed a student from its Congressional internship program Friday.
The student, who is transgender, says she is confused about the abrupt dismissal. The institute says it was simply because of eligibility requirements.
CHCI chose 32 interns from a group of hundreds for this year’s summer program based on grades, résumés and application essays.
Andrea Ullola tells HOH that she was thrilled to be accepted. CHCI places interns in a Congressional office and gives them a stipend and housing.
Ullola was dismissed three days before she would have started as an intern in the office of Rep. Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.).
One of the eligibility requirements for the program is that the interns be enrolled in a college or university. Ullola graduated this spring from a two-year community college with an associate degree.
She says she is applying for the fall semester at Long Island University. The deadline for transfer students is Aug. 1.
But she says she had to wait for her community college transcript to arrive before she could complete the enrollment process.
On Friday, Ullola says, CHCI Programs Director Reynaldo Decerega called her into his office to say it had come to his attention that she was not currently a registered student with a college or university. When she confirmed this, he said she had to leave the program.
“He said I had to leave the next day, which was Saturday,” she says. Then he remembered she had a car and asked whether she could leave immediately, telling her to make sure to leave behind any materials that she received from the institute.
Decerega denies the account, saying he told her that she could leave after the weekend. He adds that it was her decision to leave immediately and that she offered to return the program materials, which he accepted.
No one in the program knew Ullola is transgender, Decerega says. Even if they had, he tells HOH, it would not have been an issue since the institute is supportive of the gay and lesbian community.
Heinrich’s communication director, John Blair, tells HOH that the office wasn’t aware of any of the circumstances surrounding Ullola’s dismissal.