Adrie Roberts, Cache County Extension agent, has employed the talents of dozens of student interns during her 15 years of work for Utah State University. But intern Eduardo Nunez-Huerta, who recently graduated from Utah State University with bachelor's degrees in business management/human resources and liberal arts, stands out in her mind.
"Eduardo started working with us as a Spanish translator for our finance classes," said Roberts. "He ended up advising us on how to rework the program so it more effectively suited the Latino community and culture. Eduardo had links to this underserved population through his employment and religion. This opened many doors. He has been a huge asset."
Nunez-Huerta needed an internship for his degree requirements. He hoped for one that would allow him to make a difference in people's lives as well as provide him with business experience. The Extension internship filled both bills.
"I always wanted to help my people," said Nunez-Huerta. "Especially when it comes to education. I know the challenge of living in a community where you don't speak the language. It's difficult. So I really wanted to do something that I would feel proud of and that my family would feel proud of me doing. I got to do many things in my internship to help the Latino people."
The translation portion of his internship brought interesting challenges.
"It's hard to explain 'a penny for your thoughts,'" he said. "The literal translation would mean nothing in Spanish so, as translators, we had to explain the whole concept. Or, the word 'equity.' It is not a Spanish word, so we had to use many words to explain a concept."
As Nunez-Huerta continued his internship, he realized there were other needs in the program.
"The finance classes were too Americanized," said Nunez-Huerta. "They needed to be adapted to the Latino culture. So I worked with the other interns to do this. We taught the students many things — like how to write checks, how to balance checkbooks and how to open bank accounts. But many Latinos deal only with cash, so we also taught them things like how to effectively use the envelope system. This can be an effective budgeting tool, because once the money in the envelopes is gone, it's gone."
The work done by Nunez-Huerta and other interns will not only affect the local community, Roberts said. The work done in Cache Valley will be invaluable to Latino people all over. Roberts is currently working with Susan Mannon from Utah State's Sociology Department to evaluate these programs and determine what is working and what needs to be changed.
"The programs developed here will be used in county Extension offices throughout the state and even in other states," said Roberts. "Eduardo's involvement will help people in many places."
A native of Michoacan, Mexico, Nunez-Huerta moved to North Logan with his single-parent mother and two older brothers in 1997. He graduated from Sky View High School in 2000. He wanted to attend college, but didn't know how he would pay for it. After encouragement from his high school counselor, Nunez-Huerta was able to get a four-year scholarship to USU, something he will always be grateful for, he said.
"My mother never had the opportunity to attend college, but she always stressed the importance of education to us," he said. "I was worried about how I would pay for an education and even went back to Mexico where education is subsidized by the government. But that didn't work out, and when I returned to North Logan, I found out I had been accepted to USU and had a scholarship. It was exciting that I had a way to finance my school."
Though the scholarship paid for his schooling, Nunez-Huerta also needed money for living expenses. He put into practice the money management concepts he taught in his internship. While taking 15 to 18 credit hours a semester, he worked at ICON Health and Fitness 32 hours a week in addition to his 10-15 hour a week internship last semester.
Nunez-Huerta hopes to attend graduate school at Utah State after he has several years of work experience under his belt.
"I will always be grateful for my time at this university," he said. "The internship opportunity was a very good experience for me. I learned a lot from Adrie Roberts and my teachers here. USU has a healthy learning environment. Hopefully it will stay like this so I can send my kids here. I will miss it if I move away."