on June 5, 2017 on 6/5/17
From the Napa Valley Register, written by Jennifer Huffman:
“With a triple major in political science, Spanish and ethnic studies, Vintage high school alum and Santa Clara University student Arelí Hernández certainly has her hands full.
But this summer this Napa native will have to make room for one more activity. Hernández has been selected to attend the Fulbright Summer Institute in London.
Out of that 59, Hernández and only three other students will study international development and politics at SOAS University of London. The University has been called the world’s leading institution for the study of Asia, Africa and the Middle East.
The Fulbright name may sound familiar.
The program was established in 1946 by Senator J. William Fulbright. The highly competitive program offers research, study and teaching opportunities in more than 100 countries.
It is considered one of the most prestigious scholarship programs.
Fulbright alumni have won Nobel Prizes and Pulitzer Prizes, served as head of state or government and elected to US Congress.
According to a Fulbright news release, the Fulbright Commission selects Summer Institute participants through a rigorous application and interview process. Some 1,200 applications were received.
She almost didn’t even turn in an application for the Fulbright program, admitted Hernández.
“I applied on a whim and thought it was completely out of my reach,” she said.
Upon learning she had been chosen, “I was honestly really shocked, and still kind of am.”
Hernández doesn’t come from a college-educated family. She is the first in her family to attend a university.
Her parents are immigrants, and her grandfather originally came to the U.S. as part of the Bracero program in the 1940s. Hernández father has worked in construction and her mother at a preschool. Hernández, who graduated from Vintage High School in 2015, has three younger siblings.
Even after earning a full scholarship to Santa Clara University, leaving her family and friends in Napa after high school was a big deal, she said.
“I had grown up in this bubble,” she came to realize.
While she appreciates her childhood surrounded with family and friends, “There is a whole world out there that a lot of us don’t know exists until we leave. College really opened my eyes to that.”
Besides her triple major, Hernández is also the co-chair of Ballet Folklórico de SCU, a peer mentor for first-year, first-generation college students, a student ambassador, a group leader for Christian Life Community campus ministry and teaches English as a Second Language lessons to on-campus workers.
While at SCU, she’s gone on several service and other types of trips, including to New Orleans, El Salvador and Poland. After this summer, she will study in Ecuador with an international development firm and work with indigenous people in the country.
“I always want to learn more,” she said. The trips and projects “are outside of my comfort zone, but so much has happened” since she started her college journey. “I can only imagine what other good things can come of this” Fulbright experience, she said.
Hernández said she was a little surprised at the reaction to the news of her Fulbright Summer Institute acceptance.
“At school some of my classmates and professors would come up to me and congratulate me. I didn’t know it was that big of a deal. I felt really proud of myself. I really did not expect this at all.”
Hernández’s academic and guidance counselor at Vintage High School, Matt Eustice, wasn’t surprised.
“I always knew she’d end up doing something special,” said Eustice. “She showed energy and determination early on,” with a strong work ethic that the made a priority in her high school years, he said.
“She’s an impressive young lady,” Eustice said. “This accomplishment couldn’t happen to a better person. “”
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