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Renowned Speaker and Humanitarian to Lecture on how to `Make a Difference'

Paul HernandezPaul Hernandez, known for his dynamic and high-energy presentations, will speak at Ferris State University on Monday, Feb. 10 at 7:30 p.m. in College of Business, Room 111. Hernandez will also offer his College Positive Volunteer and mentor training on Tuesday, Feb. 11 at 11 a.m. in IRC 131, the Hispanic/Latino Cultural Center.

The event, co-sponsored by the Hispanic/Latino Cultural Center, the College of Health Professions and the Diversity and Inclusion Office, is free and open to the public. Natalia Carvalho-Pinto, an advising assistant in the College of Health Professions and the student resource coordinator in the Hispanic/Latino Cultural Center, is excited about the collaborative effort that has made the appearance of Hernandez possible. Having previously heard Hernandez speak, she became convinced that his appearance at Ferris could have a positive impact on students as well as the greater university and local communities in the Big Rapids area.

“I heard Dr. Hernandez speak for the first time five years ago and have wanted to bring him to campus ever since,” Carvalho-Pinto said. “His lectures are powerful and highly inspirational. Dr. Hernandez has the ability to connect deeply with his audiences and with students. His lectures bring attention to issues of inequality (especially throughout the U.S. K-12 educational system), poverty and challenges faced by minority groups in large cities. Because Dr. Hernandez speaks about his own experiences as a homeless teen, who dropped out of school to join a gang, students are able to gain a clear very real perspective on diversity and socioeconomic issues in the U.S. today.”

Before he earned Ph.D., bachelor’s and associate degrees, Hernandez was homeless and living on the streets of Los Angeles.

“Administrators and teachers often spoke of me as a thing rather than a person,” he said. “They struggled to connect with me and my homeboys or to help us see beyond the Los Angeles ghettos we called home. Rather than trying alternative methods to engage or mentor students like us, our schools funneled all their resources toward college-track students.

“Eventually, I dropped out and dedicated the remaining of my K-12 years to the streets of LA, as a homeless teenager,” he added.

Ultimately, Hernandez learned ways to help young people traveling a similar path to his own. Today, he is a lecturer and works with the National College Positive Volunteer Program, the United Way, the High School Turn Around Initiative and the College 101 program. Hernandez works with youth, at-risk kids that were like he was at their age. He strives to inspire young boys and girls to pursue higher education and to achieve a college degree. As part of this effort, he works with administrators, college professors and teachers to improve passing rates and to build meaningful relationships with students at risk of dropping out of school.

Hernandez was awarded the Weaver Human and Civil Rights Award, in 2012, for his work with at-risk youth and college students.

On Tuesday, Feb. 11, in IRC 131 (the Hispanic/Latino Cultural Center), Hernandez will provide CPV and mentor training based on his pedagogy. All students who participate in the training will earn 90 minutes of community service/volunteer hours, as approved by Ferris’ Volunteer Center, for themselves or their organization and will be awarded a training certificate upon completion of the program.

“I hope that after participating in his keynote address and CPV training, students will be more interested in being mentors and serving as role models to their younger peers,” Carvalho-Pinto said. “We have great student organizations and Greek life on our campus. I would love to see students engage more with their underclassmen to help them stay engaged in school. The CPV training will help students acquire the tools and knowledge they need to do just that.”