2018 SPA Woman of the Year: Sabrina Hernandez, '18

Sabrina Hernandez is this year's School of Public Affairs Woman of the Year. Each year, we select one student from each school that represents our 5 pillars to honor with Woman of the Year. Sabrina radiates kindness and confidence, and she has a strong background of being a leader on campus. Her dedication to helping others and her support for all women made her the perfect candidate for this award. A political science major with a passion for education, Sabrina is an endearing and intelligent woman. 

Her Campus American University: So, where are you from?

Sabrina Hernandez: I grew up in Massachusetts, in a small town called Plainville. And that, Plain-ville, describes exactly how the town was. It’s four thousand people. We have 2 stop lights and like 6 Dunkin Donuts. My mom moved us there from Boston City for the schools. 

 

HCAU: What brought you to AU?

SH: I took AP Gov in high school, and Obama had won the election. That was the first election that my parents and my grandparents voted in as citizens, and that was a really big deal because my parents are immigrants. I was inspired by [Obama] and the government class that I took, and I wanted to go to DC to learn about government and changing the world for people that look like me. 

 

HCAU: How did you settle on your current major?

SH: I actually came in for legal studies because my parents had always said “you’re gonna make money and be a lawyer,” and I was interested in immigration law. But when I was in the law classes, I was more interested in the policy aspect of it and in the ways that legislators’ decisions affect people’s lives and the way institutions interplay with oppression. So, that’s why I decided to change my major to political science with a concentration in race, gender, and politics. 

 

HCAU: Is your major/career path the same as it was freshman year?

SH: I wanted to go into education, but when I got into AU my parents said I couldn’t be an education major because being a teacher wouldn’t pay my loans. So, I came here knowing I loved education, but also having an interest in politics and government. Throughout my time here at AU, my studies have been focused on politics, but my work and volunteerism has all been focused on education. I think that I always knew that I had this passion for education, but it didn’t always reflect in my academics. 

 

HCAU: Tell us more about your involvement on campus.

SH: When I come into something, I dive in headfirst and try to do everything that I possibly can. The beginning of my involvement was definitely when I started volunteering with DC Reads, and I joined my sorority my freshman spring. The next semester, I applied for a leadership position because I wanted to be involved. I served as the philanthropy and service chair, I served as the sisterhood activities chair, and I founded the diversity and inclusion chair. I wanted to give back to this organization in the ways that I could. I’m also in the SPA leadership program. My sophomore year I also helped start GUIDE on this campus, which is Greeks United for Diversity, Inclusion, and Equity. 

I think that my driving force for all of my leadership on this campus has really been leaving it better than when I came in. I have always seen my leadership and the things I’m doing as not benefiting me, but benefiting my sisters, brothers, and everybody who comes after. I know that people have done that for me, and that’s why my organizations are all as strong as they are. 

HCAU: You seem really interested in diversity and inclusion. How long has that been an interest of yours?

SH: It’s always been. What’s interesting is seeing, over the past few years, how AU has embraced it. I was in STEP, which is a transitions program for first generation students of color, and that was my first eye-opening experience about the importance of diversity and inclusion. I have remained very close with the Center for Diversity and Inclusion, which runs that program. I’m literally in their office all of the time because they are my center for support on this campus. 

 

HCAU: How did it feel to be selected as Woman of the Year?

SH: I think it’s incredible. What really struck me was seeing what everyone does in their own corners. We’re all just hustling, and none of us are trying to be recognized. We’re just doing it because we want to do it. To be recognized at the end of my college career is really powerful for me. I think freshman Sabrina would be so proud.

 

HCAU: What is your dream job?

SH: My dream job would be to be in a position where I could advocate for students of color, immigrant students, and English as a second language students in spaces where they normally may not have a voice. Whether that’s through education policy or directly working with students, which I’m gonna be doing next year as a teacher, for me it always comes back to the students and the families and the communities that I care about.

 

HCAU: Who are some of your female role models?

SH: My mom, one hundred percent. She came to this country and has given my brother and I absolutely everything. She has always shown me this intrinsic motivation that we all possess. I think that the people here at AU that, despite all the obstacles that AU and the world face them with, come out stronger and speak out for people who can’t. That’s extremely inspiring. And just all women because we come together and fight for the things that are important to us.

 

HCAU: What inspires you?

SH: My sophomore year I went to the US/Mexico border with an Alternative Break. When I am in the library or have a paper due or am down about something, I think about the people we met that crossed the Rio Grande River that morning with their kids on their backs to give them a better life. They’re thinking about the safety of their families and they’re thinking about making their lives better. People who are crossing the border right now inspire me because I know it’s considered a political issue, but, to me, it’s a family issue. The people who don’t have a voice, like undocumented immigrants, inspire me to no end because I know that my family and I could’ve easily been in a very different position then we are now. 

 

HCAU: Name one thing on your bucket list.

SH: It used to be to go to Paris, but then I went when I was abroad! One item on my bucket list is definitely to lead an organization. I feel like I’ve learned so much about leadership, and I want to be able to take that and use it to help people. And also, just to have a family and be happy and have a home. 

 

HCAU: What’s the most important thing you’ve learned during your college career?

SH: How important it is to show up for people and to give people the space to explain themselves. Just always having a good intention and a kind heart towards others will bring you further than any position you hold. I believe that throughout my time here the people who have impacted me the most, and who I’ve impacted the most, has been through kindness. My sorority has taught me how to be unforgivably kind. It can be a competitive space here, but if you’re just nice to people they’ll see past everything else. 

 

HCAU: What advice do you have for younger women in your field?

SH: It’s all about the kids. At the end of the day, we may have different ways to try and solve educational inequity, but what’s important is looking at the things that unite us like families and students and giving them the best opportunities possible. If you go into this work with that, people will see that and give you the space to talk about what your solutions may be. But it has to be about the kids at the end of the day. 

 

HCAU: Where do you see yourself in 5 years?

SH: I hope to have touched my students and helped them grow academically, socially, and emotionally. I hope that I’ve made some new friends along the way and that I’ve made my family proud. I hope that I’m, maybe, back in school getting my master’s or something. At the end of the day, I just hope that I’m able to make a difference somehow. 

 

Sabrina ended the conversation by reflecting on her college journey as she gets ready to graduate, "There’s so many people that I’ve met along this journey that have really empowered me to be myself. I’m really proud of who I’ve become. I’m happy. I don’t have any regrets. I feel like I’ve done everything that I’ve wanted to do, so I can go now."

Currently an undergraduate student at American University, Katie is studying Political Science with a minor in Communication Studies. When she has free time, she enjoys visiting art museums and going to concerts. 

Find her on Instagram here

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