On his daily bicycle commute from a rented apartment in Maryland to the Washington, DC, headquarters of the consumer advocacy organization Public Citizen, Angel Olvera, a Class of 2022 Social Science major focusing on political science at NYU Shanghai, developed a six-year plan for his life.
Devised during the summer of 2019 when he completed a Summer Service Grant–funded internship at Public Citizen, the plan included a “conservative” goal of interning at the US Supreme Court during the 2020–2021 school year and an “aspirational” goal of interning at the White House for a President Bernie Sanders.
Through no fault of his own, “neither of those things ended up happening,” Angel says with a laugh.
Sticking to the Plan
Instead, a global pandemic forced him to spend his junior year studying political science at NYU Shanghai, among other subjects, remotely from his hometown of Victoria, Texas. Still, Angel is on track for the rest of his targets. In the summer of 2020, he completed a second Summer Service Grant–funded internship, this one at the Center for Peace Victoria, an organization that aims to bring community members together. And since the fall, he’s taken courses toward his political science concentration online through NYU’s Abu Dhabi, New York City, and Washington, DC, academic locations.
Beyond the Border
Angel chose NYU Shanghai despite never having set foot outside the United States before enrolling (he had been to one other state—Maryland, where his mom took him to watch his favorite NFL team, the Baltimore Ravens). “I was very intrigued about studying on the other side of the world,” he explains. “I wanted to interact with people from different cultures and countries.” Today, one of Angel’s closest friends is from Russia; another is from China.
Deciding on Public Interest Law
While Angel originally planned to study business, a series of experiences helped him discover his aspiration for a more altruistic path in public interest law. “I decided maybe I wouldn’t be so happy with my life if I ascended to the middle class but all the people I grew up with weren’t able to,” says Angel, who has always lived at or below the poverty line. “I want to do something that will help everybody.”
At Public Citizen in 2019, Angel worked on campaign finance law and fair election issues. He also got to meet the organization’s founder, Ralph Nader, and the Democratic members of congress known as the “Squad,” and attend the US House of Representatives Ways and Means Committee hearing on universal health care. Angel says his passion for health care is driven in part by his own family’s experiences: when his mom took his brother to an out-of-network hospital during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, she received a bill for more than 10 percent of her annual income. “There’s really no excuse for that,” he says. The problems with the US health-care system “are perfectly fixable and preventable. We just allow this to happen.”
At Center for Peace Victoria, Angel worked to unite the community after the police killing of George Floyd, organizing discussions over Zoom and a Black Lives Matter march down the city’s main street. “We tried to teach people to learn to live with their differences and embrace their similarities,” he says.
Next up for Angel on the six-year plan is finishing his senior year back on campus studying political science at NYU Shanghai. After graduation, he intends to work as a paralegal and in community organizing before going to law school. Eventually, he hopes to work as a public interest lawyer. “I like that as far as the next six years go,” he says. “After that, I’ll see.”