Thank You For Being Such A Vital Part Of Our Team, America Hernandez! We Look Forward To Sharing More About You So Others Can Get To Know You Better!
Tell us a bit about your backstory and what lead you down your current life path.
I am an immigrant from Jalisco, Mexico. I came to the U.S. when I was 3 months old and grew up in the Central Valley of California. I have been undocumented all my life and learned to navigate systems and advocate for myself and others. My life experience inevitably led me to pursuing a career helping undocumented youth and other immigrant groups.
What or who inspired you to pursue your major/career, America?
I have always been inspired by my parents and my immigrant peers. I grew up witnessing my family and folks from my community working in the fields, restaurants, construction, and many other hard trades. They modeled what hard work and resiliency were for me and that we always had to give back. Today I use my own experiences to support youth to achieve what I have achieved.
What is one thing you are most proud of achieving in your life?
I am very proud of accomplishing my goals of pursuing a graduate degree, owning a home, and obtaining my dream job despite being undocumented.
What keeps you motivated? What maintains your passion for and commitment to the work you are doing?
I am motivated by the communities that I serve. Seeing youth accomplish their own goals and dreams fuels me to continue creating systems of support in our communities through program development, philanthropy, and advocacy.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story?
I would say my father is whom I am most grateful for helping me get I am very grateful for all the people and mentors who helped me along the way. One such person was my high school teacher, Mr. Casillas. He helped me get to college after I had given up because I was undocumented. He did not take “no” for an answer and found a loophole that allowed me to attend the university. This had a profound effect on my life, not only because I was able to attend college, but because he taught me to not take “no” for an answer and to find ways around problems.
What do you like to do in your free time, America?
During my free time I enjoy spending time with friends and family, cooking, dancing, and traveling.
Tell about an amazing trip you took. Where did you go and what did you enjoy most?
My favorite trip was a recent trip back to my hometown in Mexico. I had not been able to go since I was a child and it was wonderful to reconnect with my family, my place of birth, and our traditions.
If you were granted three wishes, what would they be and why?
My wishes would include a world without borders, equitable access to education for all, and the eradication of poverty. Migrating for survival, personal development, or love is a human right, as is access to education and the right to grow up with your basic needs met.
Is there something exciting you are working on now? What is it and why did you choose to start it?
I am currently working on an exciting project called the Opportunities for Youth project. The goal of the project is to support non-profits and school districts throughout California to provide trauma-informed and culturally responsive support services to unaccompanied immigrant youth to ensure that the youth are able to safely integrate into their new communities.
Is there a particular book that made a significant impact on you? What is it and why did it resonate with you?
The Prophet, by Kahlil Gibran is one of my favorites. It has a lot of valuable life lessons on love, parenting, marriage, and so on.
The road to success is difficult and requires tremendous dedication. What advice would you give to a young person who aspires to follow in your footsteps and emulate your success?
My advice to someone who wishes to follow in my footsteps is to trust your intuition, invest in relationships, and lose your fears. I have learned that even if a path does not exist, we must think outside the box and forge our own futures.
Describe a time that you failed and how you responded to that situation.
There have been many times that due to my circumstance and the adversities I have faced, I have not been able to achieve my goals. For example, right after I graduated from college, my parents were incarcerated and I was left without support to continue my education. I lost out on good job opportunities because of my immigration status and had to resort to working in restaurants. However, I decided that no matter what I did that I would be the best at it and give it my all. In all of my positions, my employers recognized my hard work and my grit, and I was promoted to management. I used each of these opportunities to learn and continue getting ahead.
What are you most passionate about? Can you share a story?
I am most passionate about working with immigrants, youth, and my community. My current professional role is working with unaccompanied immigrant children, I serve on various boards of youth-serving organizations, and I am an appointed member of two City of Fresno Commissions. Doing this work fuels me and makes me feel like I have a role in shaping my community.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good for the greatest number of people, what would that be?
If I could inspire a movement for the greater good, it would be to help people understand trauma and healing to become more empathetic. I believe that most people are innately good. With good communication and empathy, we could have healthier thriving communities.
Please share your favorite Life Lesson quote. How is it relevant to your life?
It is very cliched, but my favorite quote is “Live, Love, Laugh”. Nothing is more important than those three things. We cannot take life so seriously all the time. We must prioritize our own self-care and wellness in order to be able to live a life of servitude. We cannot pour from an empty cup, so it is important to nourish ourselves with whatever makes us happy.
Why did you choose to be a Board Member of Educate. Radiate. Elevate.?
I chose to be a part of the board of E.R.E. because I believe in its mission of providing tutoring services to underserved populations and I felt that I could contribute to its growth and sustainability through my own experience, perspective, and resources.
What about the Educate. Radiate. Elevate.’s Purpose, Mission, and Core Values speaks most to you and why?
As someone who comes from a very economically disadvantaged area with limited educational support because my parents did not have a lot of formal education, I understand how valuable it is to be able to obtain educational support from professionals. Having an organization provide tutoring services free of cost can be life-changing to the youth we aim to serve. I also love that our tutors, volunteers, and board come from diverse backgrounds and can serve as role models and mentors for the youth.