Ed. note: This post is part of the Spotlight on Commerce  series highlighting members of the Department of Commerce and their contributions to an Economy Built to Last.
Guest blog by Cristina Bartolomei, Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist and Hispanic Employment Program Manager at the Office of Civil Rights, Office of the Secretary
As an Equal Employment Opportunity Specialist and Hispanic Employment Program Manager for the Office of Civil Rights at the Office of the Secretary, I work every day to serve the Hispanic community and other minorities in and outside of Commerce to identify policies, practices and procedures that may enhance or hinder their equal representation within the Department.
Growing up in San Juan, Puerto Rico as the third child of four, my father often called me the defensora de los oprimidos or “defender of the oppressed,” as I always attempted to dissect and analyze sibling disagreements until the parties involved made peace with one another. My siblings didn’t seem too fond of me doing this and, looking back, I don’t blame them. It was in those days that I found myself daydreaming about being part of something bigger than myself, about doing something truly meaningful in the lives of others.
Many years later, I find myself working for a Cabinet department in the Nation’s Capital, proudly serving the President of the United States. Every day I work with internal and external organizations to educate about and improve Hispanic-American representation at the U.S. Department of Commerce.
Sometimes it feels as if I’m still daydreaming–but real it is, and this reality is ingrained in the choices we make.
When I began my studies in Audio-Visual Communication and Modern Languages at the University of Puerto Rico, I became increasingly aware of the issues affecting the Hispanic community in and outside of the Island and the role we could all play in taking effective action. It was then when I became involved with a host of organizations both in Washington, D.C. and in Puerto Rico to explore which role I could play in addressing these matters. Not only did I have the opportunity to explore beyond borders, but I also connected with a myriad of Hispanic leaders who generously continue to mentor me on my path.
I have been engaged in producing Hispanic-centric news as an intern in the D.C. branch of the Telemundo Network, conducting research and communication strategies for the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), producing advertisements for the Puerto Rico Department of Education, promoting arts education through Scene 51, Inc., of Puerto Rico and assisting in Civil Rights-related projects in the Department of Commerce as an HACU National Internship Program (HNIP) intern, and finally pursuing an M.A. in Strategic Political Communications at the George Washington University. My advice to other young Hispanics is to take chances, to step far and beyond what may be deemed to be your duties and become a symbol of that which could be attainable by us all. In more ways than one, take advantage of all the opportunities that are out there. You never know where they may lead you.
Hard work, perseverance and well-versed guidance gave me the answer that led me to the Office of the Secretary at the U.S. Department of Commerce and a position that I proudly and humbly serve in the hope of continuing to contribute to our president’s promise for an America Built to Last.