Student Journalism at San Rafael High School

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Off the Leash

Off the Leash

The 10,000 Degrees Lady

SRHS alum Yessenia Hernandez wants to help seniors achieve their dreams.

In the bustling hallways of San Rafael High School, a familiar face stands out among the students and staff – Yessenia Hernandez, a dedicated and driven individual with a passion for guiding young minds towards their dreams. Yessenia is the 10,000 Degrees advisor who is a former San Rafael High School (SRHS) student herself, who is now giving back to the community that helped her on her own journey to success.

“I am the 10,000 Degrees Central Marin fellow working at San Rafael and Madrone High School,” she shares proudly. “I work mainly with seniors on anything post-secondary education related. This includes helping students with their college applications, financial aid applications, and scholarship opportunities. I also assist seniors exploring trade schools and programs, like automotive tech, cosmetology, and real estate.”

With a warm smile and a genuine desire to make a difference, Yessenia engages not only with seniors but also with younger students, focusing on college and career exploration to ensure they enter their senior year with confidence and knowledge.

Beyond her role in the school, she’s a multifaceted individual with multiple hobbies. “Outside of work, I enjoy baking, exercising, and watching series,” she shares. Her commitment to helping students achieve their dreams extends into her personal life.

This year marks her second year working at SRHS as a 10,000 Degrees Fellow, a role she embraced due to her personal connection with the organization. “I chose to work at 10,000 Degrees because I was a 10,000 Degrees alumna myself,” she reveals. “Their support was crucial to my college journey. They were not only there to answer every question I had but also provided me with a scholarship that eased my financial concerns about paying for college. I wanted to give back to an organization that did so much for me.”

10,000 Degrees, a nonprofit organization, is dedicated to helping first-generation, low-income, and underrepresented students and their families achieve educational equity. It provides support to students from high school through college and beyond, with a mission to empower young minds and break down barriers to education.

The fact that she is an SRHS alumna has significantly influenced her work with 10,000 Degrees. “Being an SRHS alumni has definitely helped my work with 10,000 Degrees. It has been much easier to navigate the school site because I am so familiar with it,” she explains. Her personal educational journey and familiarity with the school have allowed her to better understand the educational support needed at SRHS, especially for students with unique pathways.

Apart from working with the College and Career Center and 10,000 Degrees, Yessenia also collaborates with the Bridge Program which is an organization that helps newcomers to settle in their new environment, specifically those who encounter language barriers.

Working with the newcomers and Bridge counselors, she collaborates on creating workshops tailored to the needs of newcomer students. Recently, 10,000 Degrees hosted a Scholarship Essay workshop, helping newcomer students take their first step toward securing a 10,000 Degrees scholarship.

When asked what she wants students to know about her, she emphasizes, “The number one thing I would like students to know is that I am here to support them in any way they need. I know how difficult and scary the college process can be, so I hope they see me as one of the many support systems they can turn to.”

Her work with 10,000 Degrees is more than just a job; it’s a personal mission. “My ultimate goal is to become an immigration lawyer so that I can help my community,” she shares. “I myself am an immigrant and understand the struggles and uncertainty that come with it. Working at 10,000 Degrees has allowed me to start helping my community in a different way.”

Despite her busy schedule, family remains at the heart of her life. “I am very family-oriented,” she says, highlighting the importance of her cultural and familial connections.

Reflecting on her own journey, she acknowledges the role of the 10,000 Degrees Scholarship in her life. “I did receive the 10,000 Degrees Scholarship throughout my four years of college,” she recalls. “The scholarship helped me pay for things like my textbooks, my student parking pass, and personal expenses. With the support of 10,000 Degrees and other scholarships, I was able to graduate college debt-free.”

As someone who was born in Tlaxcala, Mexico, and raised in San Rafael, she has come full circle, returning to her roots and making a positive impact on the community she calls home. The presence of her former SRHS teachers, such as Ms. Verheecke, Mr. Allen, and Mr. Pommier, further reinforces the sense of continuity and the legacy of support and guidance that Yessenia represents.

When interviewed, Ms. Verheecke mentioned that she was impressed at Yessenia’s skills as a student and even more impressed seeing her work at the CCC. “I first met Yessenia at the end of her junior year. She had just won ASB Vice President and was looking forward to making some changes in ASB,” she stated. When I asked Ms. Verheecke how she would describe Yessenia as a student she replied, “Yessenia spoke up in ASB about issues that she felt passionate about. She had some very outspoken peers who disagreed with her and that didn’t stop her from doing what she knew was right. I wish that she had joined ASB sooner, but she made an impact in the short time she was there,” demonstrating her perseverance.

When asked to describe a memory of Yessenia, Ms. Verheecke brought up her ability to remain productive: “After homecoming, the challenge the ASB teacher has is keeping all the students busy working on projects. Yessenia never had trouble finding things to do and being self-motivated to serve her school as an elected official in student government. One project she and her friend took on was making posters with inspiring and positive phrases in English and Spanish to put up all over campus. They did this consistently and I loved seeing their words up on the walls around school. I’m sure she did many other positive and amazing things, but that one always stuck out to me because it was simply kind and no one asked her to do it. She just did it!”

In her role as a 10,000 Degrees Fellow at San Rafael High School, Yessenia Hernandez ensures that all students obtain the necessary resources for them to succeed in their academic goals. Her own story is proof of the change that can come with the right guidance and a supportive community. No matter the circumstances everyone has a chance to overcome obstacles if you meet the right people and make the correct choices. She is determined to become a helpful figure for her community and the future generations of SRHS.

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    Analy RDec 7, 2023 at 1:50 pm

    NICE ONEEEEEE 🙂 love to see it <3