Name: Elizabeth Cedillo
Hometown: Dallas, Texas
CHCI Program(s)/Year: Fellow, 1993
CHCI Program Placement(s): Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard
Current Position/Organization: Attorney, Cedillo Pereira & Associates, PLLC
1. What motivated you to apply to the CHCI program(s), and why do you think they are important for Latino youth?
When I learned of the opportunity to work and live in Washington, D.C. for a year, I jumped at the opportunity. Accepting the fellowship meant I would forego the opportunity to accept a once in a lifetime opportunity to work in the sales division of Procter & Gamble. Yet, the desire to work on Capitol Hill was a dream validated by CHCI’s decision. It was an extreme honor to become a Public Policy Fellow for the Class of 1993-94. I had the unique and priceless experience of working with a Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard who took me under her wing and gave me challenging assignments as a member of her professional staff. On a personal note, Congresswoman Roybal-Allard encouraged me and helped me to believe in my ability to contribute.
CHCI takes young and idealistic leaders with dreams and forms pragmatic and transformational leaders. Anyone interested in public policy and service should have a D.C. experience. And, the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute fellowship and internship programs provide a means to that experiential end.
2. What have you been doing since you finished the CHCI program(s)?
After working as a Congressional staffer and public policy assistant, I attended law school and have practiced law in Dallas, Texas since 2000 with a specialization in Immigration and Nationality law.
3. What impact did your CHCI experience have on your career and development as a leader?
I was given the opportunity to take on tasks that were normally reserved for more senior staff members after proving my ability and expressing a desire to complete any work-related assignment. There is a saying that, “the reward for a job well done is a bigger job.” I took phone calls, and worked my way to cover committee hearing assignments and writing draft statement and hearing briefs. To this day, we remain in touch and I treasure the blessing of having worked for her. She is a phenomenal leader.
4. How do you continue to give back to the community?
Being an attorney is a profession that lends itself to giving back to our community. My law office is committed to pro bono service and participates in the AILA – American Immigration Lawyers Association DREAM Defender to represent undocumented youth in removal proceeding and participates in the AILA Military Assistance Program to provide members of the armed services with pro bono assistance. I also co-organized the AILA Dallas Know Your Rights project for detained immigrants. I have always been very driven to be engaged in civic life. That comes from my mother’s influence in my life.
Currently, I am president of the CHCI Alumni Association Dallas Chapter and serve on the City of Dallas Charter Commission, the Dallas Foundation, the Hispanic Bar Foundation, the advisory committee for the Irma Rangel All Girls Leadership School. I enjoy writing an ongoing column on immigration topics for Latina Style Magazine and occasional op-eds for the Dallas Morning News.
I’ve learned that I am at my peak level of performance in doing and serving in capacities that have great personal meaning.
5. Where do you see yourself in the next 5-10 years, and what do you still want to achieve?
In the next 10 years, I would like to be part of a national foundation to develop transformational leaders to do good in the communities where they come from. I will continue to grow my law practice and mentor attorneys interested in immigration and nationality law. I see myself visiting college campuses with our children, Gabriela, age 9 and Oscar, age 7. As an empty nester, I may consider public service of some kind. Vamos a ver el plan de Dios.
6. What advice would you give current and future CHCI participants?
Soak up the D.C. experience. And when you complete the experience, think about how you can apply the principles you have learned to your community. Coming back to Dallas was important to me. I wanted to be a part of contributing to my hometown, seeking opportunities for those who come after me and be a part of the solution to train our young to be the leaders of tomorrow. Stay involved with the Alumni Association and finds ways to financially support CHCI’s efforts.