By Margaret McKinney
New Mexico Highlands University political science graduate Abenicio Baldonado is interning with the New Mexico Legislative Council Service. He is one of only two students chosen from six state universities for the competitive paid internship.
Baldonado, a 21-year-old Las Vegas native, started his six-month legislative internship in July. He earned his bachelor of arts in political science with an emphasis in law this year. He is applying to law schools for the 2012 academic year and hopes to one day serve New Mexico as a legislator.
At Highlands, Baldonado was named to the dean’s list and received an Academic Achievement Award in 2009. He was inducted into the National Scholars Honor Society in 2008 and listed in Who’s Who Among College and University Students from 2009 to 2011.
“Abenicio has proven to be a bright, hard-working member of our staff, handling complex and mundane tasks with equal ease and willingness,” said John Yaeger, assistant director for legislative affairs. “He has fit right in with the diverse, unique legislative working environment. We’re glad to have him with us this summer and fall.”
Baldonado was assigned to the Health and Human Services Committee, the Land Grant Committee, and the Economic and Rural Development Committee.
One policy project Baldonado is working on is researching and analyzing how block grants would affect Medicaid. He will present his report to the Health and Human Services Committee in October.
Baldonado said his education at Highlands prepared him for his legislative internship, and for applying to law school.
“All the political science professors at Highlands are awesome, very knowledgeable, accessible and supportive,” Baldonado said. “My legislative process course with Dr. Elaine Rodriguez was especially helpful for my internship because it gave me an inside view of how the legislative process works.”
Baldonado said he’s fortunate to be working at the legislature when there will be a special session for redistricting, something that occurs every 10 years.
“I’ll be on the floor of the house and the senate during the special session working as an historian,” Baldonado said.
“Abenicio is a very disciplined student, and a critical thinker who can synthesize complex material,” Rodriguez said. “He demonstrates leadership skills with his fellow students in class projects without being overbearing or dominating. He’s a good, respectful listener who works to build consensus.”
Rodriquez, who has expertise in American and Latino politics, added, “I think Abenicio has great potential to eventually take on a leadership role in government as an elected official.”
Ron Garcia, director of Career Services at Highlands, said, “Abenicio is an exceptional student who is very driven and focused on his goals,” Garcia said.
Outside the classroom, Baldonado was a leader in the university’s Student Ambassadors Club and worked as an administrative aide in the Dean of Students Office and the Financial Aid Office.
While in college, Baldonado coached a Las Vegas little league all-star baseball team, requesting periodic academic progress reports from his player’s principals.
“I didn’t just coach higher-level baseball skills, I also really stressed the importance of team work and doing well in school,” said Baldonado, who played varsity baseball for the Robertson Cardinals.
Baldonado is the son of Abenicio and Susie Baldonado of Las Vegas.