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Figueroa Selected For Prestigious South Carolina Washington Semester Program

10- 23- 2006

Figueroa_OmarSpartanburg, S.C. -- Omar Figueroa, a pre-dental major at the University of South Carolina Upstate, is one of 14 honors students selected from across the state for the 2007 class of the South Carolina Washington Semester Program (WSP). In Washington, DC, WSP Fellows get first-hand experience with the political process, obtaining skills and contacts that will help prepare them for careers in virtually any sphere.

“Omar is an excellent student and the first to be selected from the USC Upstate Honors Program,” said Dr. Thomas McConnell, associate professor of English and director of the USC Upstate Honors Program. “The selection speaks very highly of Omar’s qualification and is also a reflection of the quality of the Honors Program.”

Figueroa, a first generation American, has been in Spartanburg since 1995 when his family relocated here from California. He graduated from Spartanburg High School in 2003 and works weekends as a certified medical interpreter at Spartanburg Regional Healthcare System. Figueroa is now completing a semester-long pre-dental internship program with Dr. David Dedmon, a Spartanburg dentist. His parents are Ilda and Pete Figueroa, who now reside in Spartanburg.

“Omar is an exceptional young man and a very accomplished student,” said Dedmon. “He has made the best use of this internship and has his sights set firmly on attending dental school next fall.”

WSP Fellows work full-time in congressional, executive, judicial or private sector offices and often attend important events, such as a White House Arrival Ceremony for a visiting head of state, a joint session of Congress, and arguments before the Supreme Court. Recent seminars have featured cabinet secretaries, key White House personnel, senior TV network correspondents, a Washington Post senior editor, lobbyists, embassy officials and other national leaders.

“I am looking forward to spending the spring semester in Washington,” said Figueroa. “The experience will give me a much broader perspective and this will be very helpful in the future when I am working as a dental professional, especially in terms of community education.”

While working as a WSP Fellow, the office work expected of Figueroa will vary widely, from copying and faxing, to giving tours of the Capitol, to answering constituent mail. The job can range from taking notes for a Congressman at a committee meeting, attending meetings and hearings, preparing information for news conferences and releases to representing an office at a reception.

The role can also include or running an entire office while the staff is out of town.

The South Carolina Congressional Delegation, with six representatives and two senators, provides the core of work placement.  However, other recent placements have included the Executive Office for US Attorneys in the Department of Justice, Barron-Birrell (a public relations firm representing developing countries), the Department of Education, the American Council of Life Insurance (a lobbying organization), the Office of the US Trade Representative, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Center for American Progress, and the House.

To be eligible, students must be in an Honors Program in a South Carolina institution of higher education and be degree-seeking students at the time of the fellowship. Students should be college juniors or seniors, although sophomores will be considered in special circumstances. Preference is given to students with a minimum 3.3 GPA.

The USC Upstate Honors Program, now in its fourth year, provides an enriching educational opportunity for motivated students committed to academic excellence through challenging curriculum of honors courses, top professors, exciting seminars, student-faculty conversations, extracurricular activities and other honors opportunities. In addition, a full range of activities open to honors students include collaborative research opportunities, faculty research symposia, guest lecturers and speakers, field trips, cultural events, and honors ceremonies.

Participating colleges and universities include The Citadel, Claflin University, College of Charleston, Coastal Carolina University, Clemson University, Charleston Southern University, Francis Marion University, South Carolina State University, Winthrop University, Wofford College and the University of South Carolina in Columbia.
For more information, contact Dr. Thomas McConnell at (864) 503-5681.