Valeria Hernandez: Aspiring to Inspire

On the outside, Valeria is a bubbly Venezuelan with a cheeky smile and positive energy. Aside from her demeanor, she means 100% business. When she isn’t studying, this fourth-year Honors Psychology and Family Youth and Community Sciences major and Educational studies minor devotes her time to being president of Gamma Eta Sorority Inc., giving future Gators tours as a Cicerone, and advocating for the importance of mental health. Her Campus UFL sat down with the Jacksonville native to get to know a little bit more about this inspirational student.

Her Campus UFL (HC UFL): So you’re president of Gamma Eta, a Cicerone, a senior, and a mental health advocate at UF. In three words, what would you like your legacy to be?

Valeria Hernandez (VH): "Inspire other legacies. I think that’s what I’d like to leave behind. It would be nice to have a big, momentous impact, just me as an individual, but I think that inspiring 10 people and having those 10 people have impactful legacies would be much more powerful and impactful. I think that ripple effect would be incredibly humbling! If someone were to come up to me and say, ‘Oh, you inspired me to do x/yz,’ I would immediately start crying!"

HC UFL: What does being Latinx mean to you?

VH: "For me it essentially means embracing my culture and the different backgrounds that come with it. I think that being Hispanic and Latinx is definitely peculiar compared to other ethnicities and races because we are a melting pot culture. We have native roots, we have European roots, and we have afro roots, so it’s really interesting to see all of these come together and how people who can look so differently, speak differently, and eat different foods all have that same tying commonality, which is the Latinx identity. For me it also means being aware of the differences and embracing them."

HC UFL: On that note, what motivates you to get out of bed every morning?

VH: "Probably my parents’ sacrifices to send me to college. I just think of them, I think of my siblings, the ones who are looking up to me, and you know to just set that example for them, especially my little sisters! Gosh I love them so much!"

HC UFL: How has your experience with Gamma Eta shaped you into the woman you are today?

VH: "I love this question! Gamma Eta has been everything. I was interested when I was a freshman and I was so captivated by it, I knew it was something I wanted to do. It’s definitely given me a space to be vulnerable. It’s one of the first organizations that said yes to me, maybe not immediately because I did join the spring semester of my Sophomore year but as a freshman all of the girls who were involved in Gamma Eta were so welcoming. My mentor in MLP (Member Leadership Program) was the president of Gamma Eta at the time and they always encouraged me to be the most raw, authentic version of myself without me even being in the organization. So being a part of it has definitely encouraged me to be the most authentic person that I am, unapologetically and to not change who I am based on interactions. What person A receives as Valeria is going to be the same as the Valeria person B receives. I aim to be very consistent, and not change the mold of who I am to fit specific narratives."

HC UFL: What is the best piece of advice you have ever received?     

VH: "Don’t be afraid of rejections. I received more than enough rejection emails as freshman and sophomore and it was very discouraging! I remember thinking, ‘Gosh, I don’t belong here. I suck. None of these organizations want me.’ But that wasn’t the right mindset at all. If anything, one of my greatest mentors told me to keep Knocking, eventually the right doors are going to open. The right doors did open at the right time, they may not have opened when I wanted them to open, but they did when I needed them to."

HC UFL: Do you have anything else you hope to accomplish during your last year at UF?

VH: "I would really love for there to be more of an emphasis on mental health awareness month and suicide awareness month. This year was a soft launch for the campaign that me and my friend Austin got into. Our friend Shelby did a story and it got published to the alligator, and we were not expecting it to blow up at all. It definitely showed us that people do care, it just a matter of getting the information out there. Maybe preparing a much more intensive and intentional suicide awareness campaign for next year, maybe have a forum educating people on what mental health is, what causes people to commit suicide, how do we prevent it, and how we can catch the signs in our friends. This would be especially geared toward first year students. Fingers crossed that will come to fruition in the spring!"

Photo credit: Valeria Hernandez

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