From El Paso to Rhode Island …
When Karina Hernandez was in high school, she went from wanting to be a pastry chef when she grew up wanting to be a doctor.
At that time, Karina was a participant in Ciudad Nueva’s Catalyst Job Training and College Preparatory Program, which exposes high school students to different career options by introducing them to professionals from various career paths. “A lot of doctors came in,” Karina says, “and that sparked my interest in medicine.”
After graduating from high school and from the youth programs at Ciudad Nueva, Karina moved to Providence, Rhode Island, to attend Johnson & Wales University, where she was on a pre-med track. “I liked the school,” Karina says, “but it was far from home. I came home last May to take a break and figure out my next steps. I thought about it over the summer and decided to stay home.”
… And back again
During her year away in Rhode Island, Karina kept in touch with many of the people she had developed relationships with during her time in the youth programs at Ciudad Nueva, and it didn’t take her long to get connected again once she moved back home. This time, however, instead of being a participant, she is one member of a core group of college-aged young adults sharing their unique gifts as leaders within Ciudad Nueva.
Karina spends most of her time helping out with the middle school and high school youth programs. While she enjoys helping them with their homework, her favorite thing to do is to simply spend time with them. She loves the fact that Ciudad Nueva offers youth space where they can hang out without any pressure.
Many of the kids in the middle school and high school youth programs have been coming to Ciudad Nueva since they were in the third grade, starting with the Launch Pad program. Karina can relate — she started as a third-grader, too. “I think the fact that I was part of the program helps me work with them,” Karina says. And even though she’s not sure how many of them know that she used to be exactly where they are now, she still thinks it helps them connect with her, too.
Waiting to see what the future holds
Karina is considering staying in El Paso and finishing college here, but she’s also thinking about returning to Johnson & Wales. They have a campus in Denver, Colorado, which could be a nice compromise on distance. For now, however, she is focused on enjoying her time at home and is looking forward to a summer trip to Germany.
“I have a friend from Germany whose family owns a bakery, so I’m going there this summer to work with them,” Karina says. “I still love to bake!”
Ciudad Nueva is a community-based nonprofit that exists to advance the renewal and development of central El Paso’s Rio Grande neighborhood through the empowerment and transformation of its residents. Please join us this year! Call us today at 915-521-2951 or contact us online.