Employee helps teen gain bright future
SRP employee Angelina Bravo remembers meeting 16-year-old Adriana Hernandez a couple of years ago, a high school student struggling at school, self-admittedly “surrounded by a lot of bad influences.”
Hernandez felt lost. As the only girl with two brothers, she had grown up feeling lonely. She didn’t see much of her mom, who worked long hours as the family’s main provider. And Hernandez, born and raised in Phoenix, wasn’t fluent in English and had to try extra hard in school.
Her dream job was to work at the mall.
“When I first met her, she had no idea about the state universities and was very reserved,” Bravo recalled.
But Bravo, who was paired up with Hernandez as her mentor through New Pathways for Youth, a local nonprofit that provides support to at-risk youth, guided her to something she had never fathomed possible: bigger, brighter dreams.
She introduced Hernandez to the American Dream Academy, an eight-week program offered through Arizona State University to help underprivileged Hispanic families ensure their children succeed at school and are well-prepared for a university experience. Supported in part by SRP since its inception in 2006, the academy helps parents understand how they can best support their children at school and educates them about available resources. About 35,000 parents and students have graduated since 2006.
With guidance, support and often just some company for girl talk over a weekend hike or ice skating, Hernandez slowly gained confidence.
She made honor roll in her sophomore year. Now, just like Bravo, she is on her way to becoming a first-generation college student, with plans to attend ASU.
“Angelina is like the sister I never had,” Hernandez said. “It’s great to know I have someone who cares about me.”
For Bravo, who could in many ways relate to some of the struggles her mentee had gone through, the rewards come in the little moments, like smiley-filled texts from her mentee: “Thanks so much for pushing me. I made it with you, and I’ll always make it if you’re by my side!”
Bravo said all Hernandez needed was a comforting shoulder.
“I was just there to listen, to take her out to the zoo, treat her to an ice cream and not judge her,” she said.
She also held Hernandez accountable, staying on top of her to complete her homework and checking in on classes.
Hernandez’s mom, who made the time to attend the classes despite her hectic work schedule, is grateful for Bravo’s presence in her daughter’s life.
“One of my proudest moments was when her mom told Adriana, ‘You have the best example in front of you,’” Bravo said.
Rogelio Ruiz, Program Manager at American Dream Academy, said that having someone from SRP act as a role model, on top of the financial support from the company, makes all the difference.
“Through this partnership we are able to help so many underserved families navigate the education system,” Ruiz said. “It’s a great partnership to make a positive impact in the community.”
Hernandez, who was at first skeptical of the program’s outcome, is a clear example of how it works.
“I know how it feels to be all alone with no help, but trust me there are people out there who care about you and your future,” she said.
Featured photo courtesy of Angelina Bravo: Adriana Hernandez (L) and Bravo volunteered together at the 2017 Rock ‘n’ Roll Arizona marathon.