Student Zooms With NASCAR This Summer

You might see Monica Matias’ powerful serve on the tennis court, but this summer she was driving around Daytona International Speedway.

Matias, a Puerto Rico native who was recruited to play tennis at UCF, spent her summer rubbing shoulders with policy makers. The rising senior Human Communications major landed a position as a public affairs intern through the NASCAR Diversity and Inclusion Internship. At first some might find NASCAR and public affairs confusing, but Matias explains it with ease.

“Think of how many laws would affect NASCAR,” she said. “If a bill is passed in Florida that you can’t smoke in stadiums, that would affect NASCAR fans, racers and even sponsors. The team at NASCAR researches everything that is going on so they can be on top of it.”

Matias spent a lot of her time researching laws and bills that were going to passed soon that would affect the race car giant. She spoke with lobbyists and even managed a community relations budget. Looking up the previous budgets, Matias made sure funds were being allocated to help children, seniors and people with medical needs. She also got to help plan fun events, like a private VIP screening for the new Cars Movie that was released this summer.

“On Coke Zero weekend the public affairs interns were to host legislators and senators to make sure they were having a good time and showing them around the track,” Matias said.

This is a big connection for Matias, who plans to go to law school after she graduates. Even though she’s made strides playing collegiate tennis, she is content to be part of the work force. This summer she competed in the FedCup in Panama City, Panama, on a team with Monica Puig, a Gold medal Olympian from the Rio Summer Games in 2016. Both from Puerto Rico, Matias’ hometown was cheering her on. It was an experience unlike any she had before.

“We won for the first time in over seven years and it was really exciting,” she said. “Coming from a small island everyone was following it and it was good for me because I saw that I could make a difference for little kids who looked up to us.”

Matias knows she could try and make it as a professional tennis player, but that’s not what she wants to do next. She says playing tennis has been an amazing experience and she’s learned a lot but has her sights set on law school. She will take the LSAT this fall. With a minor in sports business, she hopes to work as a lawyer for a sports team. Working at NASCAR for the summer opened up opportunities for her – even if she had to drive a golf car around the track with cars whizzing by.

“Always do the job and don’t be afraid to do the dirty work,” she said. “You’re going to have to file papers and run errands but if you do the little stuff the big stuff comes with it.  Making connections really opens up doors.”

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