By Keely Savoie
Andrea Hernandez ’19, Posse Scholar and co-chair of the student org C.A.U.S.E. (Creating Awareness and Unity for Social Equity), has been named a 2017 Newman Civic Fellow by Campus Compact, a national coalition of colleges and universities dedicated to campus-based civic engagement.
The fellowship recognizes students who demonstrate a vision and commitment to community organizing.
A daughter of Cuban immigrants and a first-generation college student, Hernandez is drawn to making higher education more accessible.
In high school, she was involved in numerous volunteer efforts through Interact, a Rotary service club for young people, where she did everything from working at Ronald McDonald houses to assembling and distributing hygiene kits.
“My volunteer work really opened my eyes to needs in my community,” Hernandez said. “When I got to Mount Holyoke, I started learning about the bigger picture, thinking more critically about the problems and the systemic issues that cause them.”
Mount Holyoke offers a wide variety of avenues for students seeking to learn how to effect change. Given her volunteer experience in high school, Hernandez quickly forged connections, both formal and informal, among student groups focused on the idea of organizing communities for change. Through the Community-Based Learning program, she became involved in Spanish Corps, a volunteer group that provides translations of school meetings and materials for Spanish-speaking parents. Hernandez, a self-designed major in American studies, also examined the issues academically.
“In my classes, we have spent a lot of time examining what it means to serve a community that you are not a part of,” Hernandez said. “A key part of effective community engagement is understanding that every community has its assets and that you are not there to save the community, you are just there to be a resource to them.”
Hernandez has also received a Cultural Vistas Fellowship to work at a nongovernmental organization in Buenos Aires, Argentina, this summer. She will be one of 12 students taking part in this multinational professional development program for underrepresented United States undergraduates. The program’s theme this year is, fittingly, civic engagement.
That Hernandez is receiving national recognition for her community building isn’t surprising, said Acting President Sonya Stephens.
“Andrea’s leadership in building and advancing campus-community partnerships has been impressive from her very arrival at Mount Holyoke,” Stephens said. “We are pleased to see her becoming part of a national cohort of civic leaders.”
In becoming a Newman Civic Fellow, Hernandez has joined a network of other students across the U.S. who have worked in their own communities to raise awareness of social issues.
“I’m really looking forward to engaging in dialogue with new people with similar goals and learning from their experiences as well,” she said.
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