Teresa Hernández, who turns 21 on June 13, plans to graduate from The University of Texas-Pan American with a bachelor’s degree in English and a minor in Mexican American Studies in May 2012. Hernández is a 2008 Distinguished Achievement Program graduate from PSJA North High School, where she served as band secretary in 2007 and president in 2008. At UTPA, Hernández co-founded the Mexican American Studies Club, along with Orquidea Morales and Nickie Moreno, to promote social justice in the community; she currently serves as its public relations chair. She served as 2011 editor-in-chief of the Gallery, a student literary-arts magazine, which has published her creative writing and photography. Hernandez has also worked with several professors on campus, including Dr. Marci McMahon, who appointed Hernández as her research assistant for a Valley Latina/o theatre project, and Dr. Michael Reed, who encouraged her to present at her first national conference. She has attended or presented at more than eight regional and national conferences since 2009. Hernández feels her most rewarding work has been at the Pharr Literacy Project, where she is a G.E.D. reading and writing volunteer teacher. Hernandez’s ultimate goal is to attain a Ph.D. in English focusing on Chicana/o literature.
Awards/Honors: Dean’s List, 2008-present; UT System College Access Scholarship, 2009-2010; Golden Key International Honour Society, 2009-present; and “Brown Bird,” selected 1st Place in Prose by author René Saldaña, 2011.
What are your plans after graduation? I will continue my education and pursue a master’s degree. After I complete my graduate work, I plan to apply to a Ph.D. program that will foster my passion for American literature and Chicana/o issues. I also want to continue working on projects that affect my community.
Do you plan to return to/stay in the Valley? I feel it impossible to answer this question without quoting Gloria Anzaldúa—“I am a turtle, wherever I go I carry ‘home’ on my back.” Y el Valle es mi hogar, and the Valley is my home. The people I love and care for the most are a part of that, and regardless of where all this takes me, they will always be with me. I plan to stay for my master’s but relocate for my doctoral work in order to return in the future.
What has your education done for you? It has done all I could ever expect it to do and more. It has empowered me as both a scholar and an individual, and truly given me the tools to persevere. My education has also allowed me in many ways, like poet Walt Whitman, to celebrate my potential and myself. This education, along with the one provided to me by family, has helped me shape my identity.
How do you feel about your UTPA experience? I do not think I would be the same without everything I have learned at this institution. The connections I have formed here with both my colleagues and professors are invaluable. These individuals, you all know who you are, have nurtured my success. Also, the curriculum has reeducated me about my culture and history, which is the core of my education.
What is your best tip for success? Whatever you do and wherever you do it—be passionate about it. You must first find the fire which fuels you as a person before youcan start to be successful at anything. After that, what drives you will validate all the hard work that will follow. Also, as author Ernest Hemingway wrote, never be daunted; believe in yourself and your capabilities.
What advice do you have for college-bound students? This is simple, but effective: Never be afraid to question, work hard, and get involved on your campus. All else will fall into place. Good luck!