As a non-traditional student, Carol landed in the social work major because of the injustice she saw in her own life. She shared so many experiences almost without realizing how she was already making a difference, without grasping the power of her own voice, her own dreams as she spoke them out loud. “I have four or five dreams,” she said.
At 18, Carol Hernandez aged out of the Foster Care system. Alone, she left the state of California. “I had nowhere to go and traveled around the states,” she said. There was a festival in Oregon and a friend in Missouri. Kentucky and Ohio and Pennsylvania, one right after the other; “I didn’t know what to do with myself,” she said. From a young age, Carol felt as though she never had any real connection, any real home or sense of belonging ... until she came to Phoenix College.
“I visited a veteran’s hospital one time and actually cried; I could work with veterans at a vet hospital. I could help foster youth; especially foster teens because they’re left out. People just want the younger kids.” Carol was listing her dreams, calling out the unseen oppression, the grievances of so many populations, the underserved; naming the battles to be waged.
We spoke about the unknowingness, the ignorance, of the true conditions of inequity among the Navajo Indian Reservation. She told me that her boyfriend’s grandma only got electricity a few years ago. “I could get more people involved, [get] them educated about the state of the reservations,” she said. Imagining a civilization with such extremes is awakening. And the more Carol spoke about her dreams, one-by-one, the more she spoke them into action, into greater awareness.
“Because of some of the things that happened in my life, I could work in behavioral health, too. [To help with] severe mental illness or addiction recovery. Or I could do Gerontology,” she said. The diversity of Carol’s real-world experiences and social work, piling on top of each other but building something strong. -Something to stand on to stand up for those who are down and out. “With all those different fields and aspects, they all touch me in a different way in my life,” Carol said. There are infinite ways to help others. Carol has found five. And so, her dreams have grown and keep growing the deeper her roots sink down into this place; Phoenix College.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “After [I] aged out of foster care, [I] didn’t find a place to belong until [I] came to Phoenix College. It’s bittersweet to graduate and leave because this place has become a home.”
Carol Hernandez plans to continue her education at ASU in the social work field. If you’d like to check out the social work degree track here at Phoenix College, please contact the social work program director, Sandra Leal, for more information.