When Katerine Hernandez was seven years old, her family traveled from El Salvador to Nashville to visit her aunt.
That trip quickly became more than a vacation, though.
“When I was seven, we came up to visit my aunt who lived here in Nashville and that visit became a stay,” Hernandez said. “We made the full transition. I’m 22 and Nashville is the place that I call home. Living here 16 years now, it’s the only thing I remember from childhood and growing up.”
At the time, El Salvador had just experienced several major earthquakes. Violence and crime were prevalent, and drought hit El Salvador in the early 2000s. For Hernandez’ parents, it seemed like a good time to move.
“My parents just decided it would be a good break from that, so we got our visas and we came over,” she said.
Hernandez worked diligently throughout high school, earning the fourth-highest grade point average at Glencliff High School and a perfect score on her writing assessment. She paid her own way through Trevecca, with the help of private scholarships. Hernandez graduated from Trevecca in August 2015—one year early—with a degree in marketing.
She says her Trevecca experience was an important time in her life, shaping her for the future.
“Trevecca really instilled in me the servant leadership model,” Hernandez said. “Even though I was really living it, I didn’t know what to call it or how to execute it. [Trevecca] allowed me to really nurture what my passions were and to connect that with marketing, people, service and just being in the community.
“I was able to develop a stronger sense of community,” she continued. “It also helped me to see issues that affected me and people that I know and love and think of ways that I could get involved and help change the conversation.”
That desire to “change the conversation” led directly to Hernandez’ first job after graduation. She is a project coordinator for the YMCA Latino Achievers, an organization devoted to empowering Latino high school students. The program provides the resources and support necessary to promote academic excellence in high school, provide access to higher education and scholarship opportunities and helping students to develop leadership skills. Activities include after-school meetings, community service projects, ACT prep courses, as well as college counseling and tours and cultural awareness activities.
Hernandez was briefly a part of the program when she was in high school, but reconnected with it during her senior year at Trevecca.
“There is something so special about sitting down with a student and having a conversation of ‘you can have dreams and you can pursue them,’” she said. “At the core of it all, it’s about the students and the legacy that they will create and the lives they will dream and live.”
Hernandez also strives to advocate for the students she serves, particularly when it comes to education. She wants to be a part of the greater conversation on such topics as tuition equality and education inequity.
In addition to her work with Latino Achievers, Hernandez is also a youth pastor, serving the students in her church, Madison Hispanic Church of the Nazarene. She also serves as a mentor in Trevecca’s LEAP program, which is designed to help freshmen successfully transition to college life.
As for the future, Hernandez says she wants to continue serving others and working with students for as long as she can.
“Regardless of what I do, I want to serve,” Hernandez said. “I want to give glory to God and that my life may be a legacy of others and what God is doing.”