Amalia Hernandez realized that education was the door to success upon her freshman year arrival to UCSD. Amalia grew up in Southeast San Diego and rarely left her community until she arrived to college. This new environment exposed her to new ideas and dreams. She states that everything changed from there – her perspective, her passion and her goals. Amalia was compelled to share these experiences and perspectives with her family and friends. She also wondered why there were not more students similar to her – the Mexican- American experience was not readily reflected at this public university at that time. She points to this “ah-ha” moment as the beginnings of the social justice foundation that would guide her future path in the world. She decided then that she would work in some fashion to promote higher education in communities like the one she grew up in, specifically with youth who needed access and opportunity.
Amalia never really left schools – after completing her B.A. in Communication, she then pursued her teaching credential at San Francisco State University. Teaching inner city students was meaningful, but Amalia found herself working with children and their families mostly in the social-emotional realm. Amalia then decided to earn her MSW from Boston University. She wanted to understand the role of empowerment, to help make sense of why some people succeeded in schools, consequently overcoming difficult situations and others did not. Positive educational experiences seemed to be a constant to address this question. Her passion in this area, and her desire to make a difference in the education system drove her to SDSU, post MSW, to complete her Pupil Personnel Credential (PPS) credential. As a school social worker she felt she could make a positive impact on a young person’s life by working with students in one of their natural “habitats” – the school setting. Amalia’s professional career has led her to serve as a mental health consultant to Head Start and family daycare programs and primarily as a School Social Worker. Some areas of interest have been implementation of Positive Behavior Intervention Supports (PBIS), parent education, and working closely with teachers and school administrators in conflict resolution skills and creating more compassionate school settings for children and adolescents.
Drawing upon her rich experience in school settings of over 20 years, Amalia began teaching the PPS course at SDSU. In 2010, Amalia began to work with the Title IV-E (Child Welfare) program as Field Faculty, expanding her role at SDSU School of Social Work. As part of the field team, she doubled PPS the school’s field placements from seven to fourteen. Her dedication to the school-based specialization has strengthened ties with school social workers in the community, created a solid post-PPS pathway, and she also collaborated with the Early Childhood Certificate program to provide the credential for interested students. As a result, she has been able to guide more students in becoming successful school social workers upon graduation. Most recently, Amalia was appointed the Undergraduate Advisor for the school of social work. She enjoys working with undergraduate students as a mentor and academic guide. Amalia states, “Funny how my path has come full circle – to that question of how positive educational experiences make a difference.” Amalia reflects back to her own personal educational journey and is pleased to see a more diverse group of students in college today. But the work is not done, and she continues to support access and opportunity to higher education at all levels, beginning in early childhood to sitting in front of undergrads here at SDSU. Amalia would like to tell students that “with supportive educational relationships, hard work, and vision – anything is possible.”
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written by Claudia Gonzalez, MSW student