Fashion enthusiast Jessica Hernandez joins counseling department

Second-generation immigrant Jessica Hernandez, UPA’s newest academic counselor, was the first to attend college in her family.

“I had to be a role model in a sense to my younger siblings,” Hernandez said. “But that often involves being the first one to navigate through different spheres of the system like education since my parents could not support me that much because of the language barrier.”

Hernandez’s family immigrated from Jalisco, Mexico, to Salinas, California, where she was born and raised in a Spanish-speaking household. Throughout high school, Hernandez did not have a specific major in mind. It was not until community college when she decided what her career would be.

Hernandez poses on a SkyStar Ferris wheel in San Francisco near the de Young Museum in March. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Hernandez.)

“In community college, in a program specifically for first-generation college students, my academic advisor majored in sociology and then got her master’s in counseling, so I took a sociology class out of curiosity,” Hernandez said.

The class resonated with her, as she was able to learn about topics such as race and class privilege which were new topics to her.

“It was a safe place to share different points of view and since we all have different backgrounds,” Hernandez said. “So it was nice to come together, despite our backgrounds, and hear everyone’s point of view.” 

After two years of community college in Hartnell, Hernandez began her undergraduate degree in sociology at CSU Long Beach. Upon graduating in 2016, Hernandez thought she wanted to be a social worker at first since all her friends were planning on going into social work, so she interned for a nonprofit called National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). She believed that a job dealing with mental health was what she wanted to pursue in the future.

Later, Hernandez worked in a program called JT Consultant Inc., where she taught students coping strategies to manage certain behaviors. Working in this job helped Hernandez realize she wanted to work with students in a school setting rather than mental-health-focused work, so she decided to pursue counseling.

“It wasn’t until two years ago that I made the connection to counseling and education, and how I can help students,” Hernandez said.

Now Hernandez is studying for her master’s degree in counseling at the University of Massachusetts Global. 

Before she came to UPA on Aug. 2 of this year, she worked as a paraeducator at a middle school in Salinas. As a paraeducator, Hernandez would be assigned to certain students, and she would help support them in classroom instruction or help them with day-to-day assignments. While working this job, she was able to get closer to students and it helped her realize that her “calling” was to work with students, which influenced her final decision to be a counselor.

Hernandez in Monterey, Calif. in January wearing a shirt that was a Christmas gift from her sister. (Photo courtesy of Jessica Hernandez. )

On top of counseling, Hernandez is interested in fashion. In high school, she partook in a fashion club that helped fundraise money for prom dresses for students who could not afford them. The influence from the fashion club helped spark Hernandez’s interest in fashion. Herandez finds a lot of her clothes while thrifting in different stores such as Buffalo Exchange in San Francisco or local thrift stores.

“I think because it’s something that makes me excited and lights me up,” Hernandez said. “Even when I go thrifting I find something that’s different and I gravitate towards, it excites me. I’m like, ‘Oh, how am I gonna put this together?’ or ‘How can I wear this?’”

Hernandez said she does not have any particular fashion aesthetic. Instead, she mixes and matches different styles based on how she feels or if she wants to wear a certain outfit for that day. Hernandez enjoys free dress days, as she is able to see the different fashion styles of UPA students.

Recently, Hernandez adopted a golden retriever puppy named Neo, and she has been occupied with walks and taking care of him. Another pastime of hers includes traveling, and she has been to several different states and countries around the world. She has been to Europe, Spain, Italy, France, Portugal, the UK and Monaco. She has also traveled to Jalisco, Mexico multiple times to visit her relatives.

Currently, Hernandez helps counselors Jill Buensuceso and Dot Westerhoff with mostly sophomores, but other grades as well. Hernandez helps them with support strategies, parent communication and finding their interests. She is also trying to build rapport with students; she wants to learn about their interests and what they want to do in the future in order to give them tools to support them in that decision. She does this by setting up meetings with them or talking with them at school.