The following interview was conducted as a part of our year-end fundraising campaign, Invest in Emerging Leaders, to showcase alumni and the impact that the fellowship had on their leadership journey.
Rina Hernández is from Long Island, New York and recently graduated from Fordham University. She was a fellow during the Fall 2016 cohort, where she worked with Fiver Children’s Foundation. In combining her passions for travel, languages, diversity, service, and legal studies, Rina intends to become a lawyer.
What is your personal social change mission?
I think education and law are of utmost importance [particularly in marginalized communities]. In terms of education, I believe it should be a right of all individuals to have access to quality education as I believe it to be undeniably beneficial to both one’s intellectual and social growth. Having said that brings me to the importance of law.
In an era of rapid globalization, where we see the mobility of people, money, and ideas occurring with astonishing fluidity, I think that laws are key to monitoring this movement and to defending the interests of those people who are being overlooked in all this rushed movement (both at home and abroad). Although the majority of my experiences working in the legal field and in a youth-focused educational context have taken place in New York, I would love to address public interests at the global level.
What are you doing in the next few years to work towards that?
As my time as a Fellow at Fiver Children’s Foundation comes to an end, I am glad at the prospect of remaining at Fiver as their part-time Family Engagement Specialist come January. The skills and experiences I have attained as a Future Leaders in Action fellow have definitely prepared me to remain at Fiver for longer than originally anticipated. While continuing my time at Fiver, I will be preparing to apply for law school (wish me luck!). I am also looking forward to traveling to the Dominican Republic for a service-learning experience for four weeks during the summer, during which I hope to be placed at the Center for Labor Rights where participants ensure that the Center provides services and support to human rights initiatives, labor rights, technical training, and intercultural relations between Dominicans and Haitians.
What are a few skills you took away from your fellowship that will help you be an effective leader?
During my fellowship, I have had time to enhance my team building skills and to develop my facilitation skills. My work as a fellow at Fiver has proven to me that these are two important qualities to have as a leader. Being a team builder and a good facilitator was not only useful during my fellowship, but necessary as well. I have learned to bring an entire staff together around a table to exchange ideas and opinions on my work plans, as well as to assign roles for tasks needed to carry out my vision of a workshop series or a family event. My team building and facilitations skills are also useful when conducting family workshops and events, where I have to interact with a wider diversity of thought, opinions, interests and experiences. I see these leadership qualities helping me achieve it in more ways than one as a legal professional.
The opportunity presented to me by the fellowship to reflect on issues of inequality in access to quality education, community development, and youth development reminds me of my promise to show my appreciation for the countless opportunities I've had to grow by helping to pave the path to success for youth facing similar or more challenging life obstacles than those I faced.
Share a story.
My fellowship at Fiver has taught me to value and further appreciate my language skills. I recall facilitating a Spanish-only parent workshop on How to Manage Stress and Anger, where it happened that only Fiver mothers were in attendance. That workshop was by far one of my better ones as the parents felt comfortable enough with each other to share stories about stressors in their lives and what they do to handle the pressure that comes with them. I like to think that there is at least one thing about the manner in which I facilitated the workshop (limited slideshow presentation, public polling, personal story sharing, and offering of emoji stress balls) that created an environment where they were open and honest about the stressors in their day-to-day lives. I learned as much from them that day as they did from me.
in the coming years...
For at least the first half of 2017, you shall find me at the same desk where I am currently working from at Fiver, and where I will continue my work planning and facilitating family workshop series and events. After that, I hope to explore the world a bit through travel and service work abroad.
By Fall 2018, you shall see me pursuing a legal education focusing on international law at a law school hopefully either in New York City or Washington D.C. And who knows, perhaps Future Leaders in Action or Fiver Children’s Foundation will seek the guidance of a Rina M. Hernández, Esq. in the future?