Don’t be afraid to take the plunge: UH Hilo student experiences life-changing internship with the FBI

Haley Ancheta
Administration of Justice student Haley Ancheta holds a “challenge coin,” she received during her internship with the FBI Honolulu Division.

Haley Ancheta, Administration of Justice major, Political Science minor, Pre-Law Certificate

Haley Ancheta’s favorite experience during her ten-week internship with the FBI Honolulu Division, was being snatched into a moving, bulletproof SUV. The SWAT role-playing exercise placed her just out of reach for safety, requiring three men to come to her rescue while using the car as a shield.

Although the situation was just hypothetical, the lessons learned are not.

“The FBI has a big unseen impact on the community. Their undercover operations catch people like pedophiles, making sure they get addressed,” says Ancheta.

The Hilo High School graduate applied for the internship program on a whim after her Hawai‘i Community College advisor recommended she consider a career in the FBI. Ancheta always had ambitions to become a law enforcement officer, so she started doing some research online.

After a competitive process involving thousands of applications nationwide, Ancheta was selected to be one of 13 interns at the FBI Honolulu Division for summer 2019. She is the first student to enter the program from a neighbor island, as well as a UH System school.

“Most people think of the FBI as just special agents, but there’s actually a lot of opportunity for growth in different fields.”

Growing up next door to her role model and “second mom” – Captain Aimee Wana at the Hawai‘i Police Department, Ancheta was inspired to pursue a career in law enforcement.

“Law enforcement itself is so male-dominated and I want to help reform the system, not just for female equality, but also to advocate for fairer sentencing of offenders and better treatment of victims alike. We’re all humans…sometimes that gets forgotten.”

The FBI Honolulu Division internship doesn’t provide housing or food for non-O‘ahu residents, however it is paid depending on one’s educational background. Ancheta earned her internship through a variety of experiences, including shucking oysters as an FBI volunteer for the Ronald McDonald House Charities.

“The oysters weren’t fresh and were vacuum-sealed in bags that were sitting in a garage for over a year. I had to take a very long shower after that,” recalls Ancheta. “The pearls recovered from the oysters were sold in auction and the money was donated for charity.”

The bulk of her time however, was spent on two research projects, one involving researching domestic extremists targeting religious groups, and the other examining the effect of the Our Care, Our Choice Act on medical aid in dying.

Ancheta presented her findings on domestic extremists at an event in June in the Neil S. Blaisdell Center, informing religious groups of potential threats. She also was able to identify external trends affecting her research on medical aid in dying, including the legalization of marijuana for recreational and medicinal use.

Ancheta admits that all of this would not be possible if not for the encouragement of her teachers and advisors at UH Hilo, and her family and friends.

Coming from a divorced household living paycheck to paycheck, she was at one time considering dropping out of college. However, people like Holly Garriques, Kurt Dela Cruz and Keian Shon at UH Hilo’s Advising Office wouldn’t allow it, convincing her to stay the course.

When she was 16, Ancheta lost a close friend to an overdose. Her grief was extremely difficult to get through, but she managed with the support of her family and friends. She wears a tattoo to remind her to keep going – waves that rise and fall without breaking – nalu ʻaiō.

Ancheta will soon be starting another internship, this time with the Hawai‘i Police Department. Her advice to her fellow students? “Don’t be afraid to take the plunge, to reach out to others around you. Take chances and apply for opportunities that come your way – you never know where it may lead you.”