Political science major Maria Hernandez ’15 is Willamette University’s first Humanity in Action fellow.
Through the fellowship program, students from the United States and nine other countries come together for five weeks “to explore national histories of discrimination and resistance, as well as examples of issues affecting different minority groups today.”
This year, the group is spending time in Washington D.C. and Berlin.
Thankful for the opportunity, Hernandez says she’s excited to work with the other fellows on civil rights projects.
“Being selected makes me feel very happy,” she says. “This program will equip me with tools to deconstruct human rights violations around the world, thus encouraging me to continue with my goal of becoming an advocate of people’s rights.”
A Ford Family Foundation Scholar, Hernandez is a member of PCUN and CAUSA. The former is the largest Latino union in the state of Oregon, while the latter advocates for statewide policies that positively affect Oregon’s Latino immigrant communities. Through these organizations, Hernandez has mentored youths and taken part in educational workshops.
She’s also advised at-risk high school students about college through the Upward Bound program, of which she is a graduate. And she’s discussed the needs of young people through serving with the Youth Development Council at the Oregon Department of Education.
Hernandez, who is minoring in sociology, Latin American Studies and American Ethnic Studies, plans to attend law school within the next two years and specialize in immigrant rights.
In the meantime, she’s eager to begin her fellowship in May and credits her acceptance to the help she’s received from faculty members — including professors Jonneke Koomen, Emily Drew, Megan Ybarra and Roy Pérez.
“I have been blessed to have mentors that support me immensely,” she says. “They sure go the extra mile to make sure their students succeed.”
For more information about the Humanity in Action program and similar offerings, go to the Office of Student Academic Grants and Awards.