Internship paves way for a career in crime-fighting
Alice Cubillos-Hall ’90SVC, ’92SVC was 16 when she discovered her passion for law enforcement while working as a high school student intern in the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office.
“That is what planted the seed. The year I was there was 1986, and I was excited because there were a lot of organized crime trials going on at the time. Every day was different; it was not like you were just going to an office and sitting down at a desk,” said Ms. Cubillos-Hall, who today is a Special Agent with the Los Angeles, CA, division of the US Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA). Most of her more than 20-year career with the DEA has been devoted toward efforts to dismantle drug cartels in Mexico, as well as airport interdictions to thwart drug and money couriers entering the US via various airlines.
During the student internship, Ms. Cubillos-Hall did clerical work that involved helping lawyers and law enforcement personnel prepare for criminal trials. “They were all doing something that was very good for the City of New York—putting bad guys behind bars,” she said.
The planted seed, however, did not take root until Ms. Cubillos-Hall, who received an Associate of Arts degree in Business Administration from St. John’s in 1990, continued on to complete a Bachelor of Science degree in Criminal Justice at the University, an achievement she marked in 1992.
She decided to get her business degree first at the behest of her father, who was concerned about her safety if she went into law enforcement. In addition, Ms. Cubillos-Hall was exposed to the business sector through a second internship on Wall Street while she was still attending Forest Hills High School.
“I also liked the business aspect because I got to work on Wall Street. But I always had law enforcement in the back of my mind,” Ms. Cubillos-Hall said. “I am a big proponent of internships because working as an intern really opened my eyes to future possibilities. Being at the district attorney’s office was especially valuable to me because I have no family members with careers in law enforcement and the internship exposed me to something I knew nothing about.”
A commuter student from Jackson Heights, NY, Ms. Cubillos-Hall chose St. John’s, in part, because of the verdant beauty of the Queens, NY, campus. “It gave me the feeling of being away at a university with all of the trees and gardens instead of going to school in the middle of the city.”
“In addition, St. John’s has a great reputation as an excellent school, and, with my history of attending a Catholic grammar school, I felt safe and comfortable going to a Catholic university,” she said. “I visited St. John’s last summer with my three children, and I was blown away by how much it has grown and how beautiful the campus remains.”
Ms. Cubillos-Hall said that although she commuted, she was able to be immersed in the life of the campus through her membership in the Sigma Chi Zeta sorority.
“Looking back, I realize how crucial my connection with the sorority was—you do not want to just go to class and go home and not be part of the University. It is really important to have a sense of belonging. I am still friends with some of those women who were in Sigma Chi Zeta.”
Ms. Cubillos-Hall also said she will never forget the strong support she received from the St. John’s community during her college career.
“My parents are from Colombia, and my two sisters and I were the first ones in our family to go to college in America, so I relied very much on the expertise of the counselors at St. John’s to help me through the application process,” said Ms. Cubillos-Hall.
“For the professors and other staff at St. John’s, not finishing school was never an option,” she added. “They really helped us along to ensure that everybody would get their degree in four years. If you were struggling, the people at St. John’s were always there to help you get through it and to succeed.”
View St. John’s Alumni in Law Enforcement.