TAMIU Grad Dreams Big, Heads to Indiana to Teach in Low-Income Communities
Shoot for the moon. Even if you miss, you’ll land among the stars.
With this personal motto close to her heart, Stephanie Hernández, 21, a daughter of immigrants from México and Guatemala, has fearlessly pursued academic and professional opportunities presented to her throughout her high school and university years, including working as a field organizer in Florida for President Obama’s grassroots re-election campaign while enrolled full time as a student at Texas A&M International University (TAMIU).
This Fall, Hernández, who graduated magna cum laude with a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science from TAMIU in May, will start her job as a public school teacher in Indianapolis, Ind., under the prestigious national non-profit organization, Teach for America.
She was one of 7,000 chosen from 58,000 applicants for a two-year teaching commitment in low-income communities. Teach for America is a national teacher corps of college graduates and professionals who commit to teach for two years and raise student achievement in public schools that serve children facing the challenges of poverty.
While teaching full time, she will also pursue a master’s degree in Education at Marian University on a full ride scholarship provided by Teach for America.
“I’m really looking forward to it,” Hernández said about her job, adding that she has had an interest in becoming an educator because of her volunteering as a vacation Bible school teacher at her church every summer and tutoring various students since middle school.
She said she does not only want to teach students and help them achieve their highest levels academically, but also wants to inspire them.
“I don’t want them to just meet goals, but strive to surpass them,” she said, “
I want to be that crazy teacher who does whatever it takes to help my students succeed. I will have fun and build trust with them.”
Stephanie Hernández (middle), is pictured with her parents, Siomara and Ricardo Hernandez.
Hernández graduated magna cum laude with a bachelor’s degree in political science from
Texas A&M International University in May. She will now work as a public school teacher
in Indianapolis, Ind., under the prestigious non-profit organization,
Teach for America,
serving children facing the challenges of poverty.
Hernández, the second in her family to graduate from college, said she is aware of the challenges faced by students from low-income families and can easily relate to them.
Her parents, Ricardo and Siomara Hernández, were undocumented immigrants in the United States at one point, she explained.
The couple married as teenagers and went through multiple struggles as they raised their four children in California. After years of working odd jobs, Ricardo Hernández began working for Costco and Siomara Hernández at Bel-Air Swap Meet.
They are now U.S. citizens and Ricardo Hernández holds a managerial position at the Costco offices in Laredo, while her mother serves as executive secretary of the local United Baptist Church, she said.
“A lot of my drive to succeed comes from my parents,” Hernández said, “Since we were little, they would tell us stories about how at times, they had little or nothing to eat. For years, growing up, my mom could only shop for clothes at Goodwill and now, she’s constantly dropping off boxes of our stuff there.”
Jokingly holding up her designer bag, Hernández explained that her father now drives an Audi and owns a business aside from his regular job.
“I’ve always been a happy, comfy girl because of my parents,” she said smiling.
If her parents eventually settled financially after years of struggles and hardships, there’s nothing she can’t accomplish, she said.
“If they came from where they came from and have done what they have done, how much more can I accomplish with a college degree? How much higher can I go?” Hernández said, “I went to college and I have no excuse to fail or to be average.”
As a TAMIU student, Hernández did not settle for only attending classes daily.
From September to November 2012, while enrolled full time as a TAMIU student, she worked as a field organizer for the Obama for America Campaign in Florida City, Florida. There, she led a group of about 80 volunteers that included Latinos; African Americans; Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgendered (LGBT) groups; senior citizens and supporters of The DREAM Act as they registered voters and campaigned for President Obama’s re-election.
In her position, she also executed special events, filed incident reports, oversaw voter data entry and briefly met and worked with luminaries such as New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, artists Sheila E. and Adrianne Bailon as well as President Obama’s senior advisor Valerie Jarrett. She also worked as staff for an event at the University of Miami where she was able to see President Obama only a few feet away.
During the summer of 2012, she participated in the Center for Public Leadership, John F. Kennedy School of Government Latino Leadership Initiative at Harvard University. Part of the University Honors Program, past president of the TAMIU Political Science Association and vice president of the Debate Team, Hernández also worked for the City of Laredo Mayor and City Council Office as an administrative assistant and as a legal clerk at the law offices of Kazen, Meurer & Perez, LLP. An active member of the TAMIU Student Government Association and former TAMIU Mariachi secretary, Hernández has always enjoyed helping and guiding others.
Hernández said TAMIU opened doors of possibilities for her and helped her recognize that she had leadership qualities.
“I’m very thankful to TAMIU,” she said, “The University offered me a full scholarship and just that in itself was amazing, but it didn’t stop there. TAMIU is a small University but it is so nurturing and always found ways to give opportunities to students to become leaders, be a part of something and learn outside of the classroom.”
Hernández, who thanked TAMIU administrators and faculty members for supporting her throughout her University life, said that upon completion of her master’s degree, she plans to apply for law school at a top university to eventually focus on child advocacy.
“I was blessed to attend President Obama’s inauguration and it was amazing to see Sonia Sotomayor, associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court swear the president into his second term,” she said, “That’s when I said to myself, ‘If she did it, I can do it, and one day, I will be just like her.’”
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