College of Health and Human Services
From the shores of California to Capitol Hill—via Cape Girardeau; that’s the path senior Hannibal Vaivao has traveled. Vaivao came to Southeast as a transfer student, but he quickly made it his home. Upon moving to Cape, “I learned how to accept people for who they are and learned that everybody that I come into contact with has something to teach me.” As a child, Vaivao spent a year living in American Samoa. Being Samoan, a year on the island gave him the opportunity to “learn a whole new culture.” He says it was “breathtaking … the stunning beauty of the island and the Samoan people.”
Vaivao says one of the hardest lessons he learned here was time management. Some of the things keeping Vaivao busy were football and volunteer work at Echo Daytime Treatment Center, an alternative school for grades 6-12. He also enjoys Cape’s natural setting. “Nature is basically knocking at the back door of Southeast, and I love to go see the Mississippi,” often ending long jogs at the river. Aside from classes, he feels “the college experience in itself speaks volumes into how I need to prepare for my future. Learning different skills in and out of the classroom is a major factor in my success because I applied what I learned into my internship and came out with good reviews from my superiors.”
Vaivao learned about the opportunity to intern for Congressman Eni Faleomavaega on Capitol Hill and, before long, he was “writing speeches, press-releases, reports, summaries of hearings, attending congressional hearings, giving tours of the Capitol, and in the midst of that I had loads of fun.” He described the congressman as the most down-to-earth man he’s ever met. The experience wasn’t all fun and games though. Vaivao says his biggest challenge was “preparing and presenting a project for the staff and Congress about America’s territory, American Samoa.”
This experience, and a family connection, led to receiving a job offer from the FBI Staff Operations Specialist program. After receiving his bachelor’s in criminal justice, Vaivao plans to move to Washington D.C. to work in the FBI headquarters and, once he is established in work, pursue his master’s degree.