For USC Senior David Hernandez, everything will come full circle on commencement day May 17. All of his hard work and sacrifice will pay off as he graduates with a double major in political science, and American studies and ethnicity.
Since his parents migrated to Los Angeles from Jalisco, Mexico, Hernandez has taken advantage of all the opportunities presented to him. In the past two years alone, Hernandez has been given a platform to be a voice for USC and the community at a variety of forums and programs nationally and across the globe.
Hernandez has come a long way since his time at Santa Monica Community College and boasts an impressive list of accomplishments for his age including being named one of the White House's "Champions of Change" by the Obama administration for his commitment to the country's youth.
With aspirations of a political career, Hernandez has spent the past year leveraging his educational training in real-world scenarios. Among his most notable accomplishments include serving as a delegate to the United Nations' social commission for poverty eradication and youth unemployment, and participating in a roundtable discussion at the White House. During the same trip to Washington, DC, he attended the Hispanic Heritage Foundation's Latinos on Fast Track program, which identifies future Latino leaders in key professions.
He also spent a week in Dubai at the Education Without Borders conference where he presented on Los Angeles' Latino youth population and access to education.
"When I first got to USC, I would have never thought I'd be in a position to help, empower, represent and be a voice for others," said David Horacio Hernandez. "I came to this university with nothing, and it has given me everything."
Hernandez has also taken advantage of many internship opportunities including the U.S. Office of Personnel Management in Washington, D.C., the district office of Congress member Karen Bass, and Project Vote Smart. Hernandez also interned with Strategic Actions for a Just Economy (SAJE) which works to champion tenant's rights, stop housing discrimination and support development projects in South LA.
Just four years ago, Hernandez was operating a forklift and working at a grocery store. After graduation, this first generation college student plans to work with Teach for America in Los Angeles before applying to the Harvard Kennedy School of Government where he hopes to attend before returning to Los Angeles to serve his city as an elected official.
At USC, Hernandez acts as the director of civic engagement for the USC Latino Student Assembly. He previously served as a student liaison to the USC Latino Forum, which promotes recruitment and retention of Latino students, and he was the Campus Representative for the Clinton Global Initiative University at USC.
Student Development Director Carol Schmitz, who works with Hernandez in his capacity as a residential assistant, finds him to be extraordinarily humble despite the success he's achieved at USC.
"David has managed to pack in some amazing experiences, like the Champions of Change award he won at the White House in 2011, or serving on a committee in New York at the United Nations. Yet he still walks around USC wondering how he got here."