Del Rio native and first-generation student Damiana Hernandez began her time at A&M-San Antonio in Fall of 2020.
“I really didn’t want to come to San Antonio,” Hernandez recalled. “We came, we drove by the campus and I fell in love with the community. ”
As a student, Hernandez found her first on-campus job as a Public Health and Safety Assistant during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. This position allowed Hernandez to pursue a role within the Office of First Year Experience (FYE) and their Peer Leader ranks.
“Being a first Gen student, something that I struggle with was imposter syndrome,” Hernandez said. “One thing I love about our campus is a lot of us are not traditional students. I loved seeing students from all different kinds of backgrounds.”
As an FYE student worker she gained opportunities to work with JagX, First Year Seminar, and one-on-one mentoring with students, which became some of Hernandez’s most valuable Jaguar experiences. When asked whom she gravitated towards and who was the most impactful during her time as a student, Hernandez quickly credited FYE staff members Myrna Garza, Yaribel Caraveo, and Valeria Cazares Reyna as being “so open about their journey” and sharing their experiences “gave [her] a lot of hope, hope in times that were very rough.” Hernandez continued to describe her staff colleagues’ impact as something she’ll “remember forever.”
“Lean on the people around you; your support system is everything and coming into college, that could be really scary to create so kind of taking those chances, pushing yourself to kind of do something that maybe you wouldn’t normally have done; taking that chance on yourself and letting yourself grow and giving yourself grace.”
Amongst her personal growth, Hernandez has also had the opportunity to witness many areas of growth and expansion across the campus community. With her time on campus beginning during the first transitions back to in-person learning, Hernandez had the unique opportunity to help develop events out of the shadows of the pandemic, including assisting with the cultivation of the Common Experience event series. The Common Experience is a dedicated intellectual mission to increase conversation and interaction between students and faculty while revolving around a shared theme and reading. She credits her time helping pull the student community back into an active mindset as a significant source of genuine and lasting friendships. Beyond her personal experience, “seeing the events and how they really prioritize student involvement has been really fun.”
Fast forward, Hernandez has obtained her Bachelor of Science in Kinesiology with a minor in Psychology at the spring 2023 Commencement Ceremony. Hernandez has steadfast plans to pursue further education at the University of the Incarnate Word and a career as a Doctor of Occupational Therapy.
“I would really love to come back and kind of give that hand and speak to students on what it’s like to be first generation and what it’s like being a Latina in health care.”