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September 2014 Junior Alumnus of the Month

CHCI Program: 2012 R2L NextGen

School: Sophomore at American University

Hometown: Brooklyn, New York

Seeing the years of hard work and dedication her parents put in to raise their family in Brooklyn, New York, Melina Hernandez, a first-generation Mexican American, has always fought for a good education with the goal of going to college. While her parents have always supported her dreams, their limited English proficiency made it challenging to advocate for their daughter’s education. As the eldest in her family and a role model to her younger brother, Melina continues to persevere and seek experiences and opportunities on her own that will support her educational and professional journey.

R2L NextGen helped Melina expand her horizons and reach higher. Says Melina, “Leaving Brooklyn for the first time and seeing up close what life can be if we attend college was such an eye opener. It helped me realize that I can do anything if I really want to.” Her time in Washington inspired her to come out of her comfort zone and apply to American University in D.C., where she is starting her sophomore studying political science.

During her time in Washington, Melina has become an active member of the Latin and American Student Organization (LASO) at American University. LASO is a socio-cultural student organization that strives to advance Hispanic culture and preserve its identity through continuous innovation, developing leaders, and getting involved in the community. This year, Melina was elected Vice President of LASO where she will organize cultural awareness events on campus and with work with other LASO student groups in the area.

When she graduates, Melina plans to pursue law school with the goal of someday becoming a New York Congresswoman herself. Melina calls the R2L NextGen experience life changing. “It helped me realize that I have the potential to be involved in politics and I can do much more for my community.