Laura Hernandez graduated from Florida International University in 2016. She holds two bachelors in Political Science and Women and Gender Studies. She also received certificates in Public Policy and Latin American and Caribbean Studies. During her time at FIU, Laura was Vice President of the FIU N.O.W. chapter, served on the national student advisory council for AAUW, and held several internship positions. As an active student on campus she founded the Her Campus chapter at FIU, developed Title IX resource flyers for the University, co-launched the first feminist summit, and lobbied FIU’s SGA to provide funding to send a coalition of students to the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders two years in a row. Previous to joining her current position, Laura worked as an electoral organizer in Miami for Planned Parenthood’s Action Fund under the Community Outreach where she helped to grow state membership and recruited volunteers to volunteer for the Hillary for America 2016 campaign. In her current role, Laura is able to combine her passions in feminist activism and community organizing to help progress and protect access to reproductive healthcare for all and empower the community she grew up in. Laura was also recently recognized as a “Miami Girl” leader in her community among 30 women who are shaping the future of the city. Laura enjoys creating new vegan recipes, tweeting away, and reading all the feminist theory books she can get her hands on.
Location: Miami, FL, United States
Campus: Florida International University - Miami, FL
Fellowship Class Year: 2014
Featured Fellow Spotlight
1. What experiences/opportunities led you to apply for the YP4 Fellowship program?
Before applying for the fellowship, I was vice-president of the National Organization for Women chapter where I was learning about social justice issues around intersectional feminism. I really owe it to a great friend and mentor, Edwith Theogene, who encouraged me to apply. I wasn’t really sure on what YP4 was about but I took on this opportunity to apply because I had nothing to lose and if it wasn’t for Edwith I wouldn’t be where I am today.
2.What social justice work are you currently doing in your communities, or on your college campuses?
At the moment I’m the regional organizer for Planned Parenthood of South, East and North Florida in Miami where I work around reproductive health and rights. Lately, a lot of the work I’ve been doing is mobilizing our supporters on the current healthcare debate going on nationally. I’ve also been working on destigmatizing issues like abortion and sex-education in our diverse communities in Miami such as the latinx community which as a Colombian immigrant I can highly relate to.
3. What are you passionate about/what motivates you to do public service?
I’m extremely passionate about women’s issues and specifically how these issues affect marginalized women. Most of the work I did in college was around that and giving these women the tools they need to empower themselves so they can go on to organize in their communities and issues. In terms of motivation for public service, I would say my mom who always raised my sisters and I with the belief that education is no good if we’re not helping others. She planted the seed since we got to this country and started going to school, she’s the most compassionate person and her compassion has been passed down so my sisters and I can give back. It’s funny now because my sisters and I now all work in public service as a school counselor, community organizer, and within the foster care system.
4. What is the main goal you want to accomplish in your social justice work?
Lately, I’ve been in this battle of staying home in Miami and giving back to help create social change while another part of me want’s to fly from my nest into a big city. But every day I’ve become more convinced that my energy and skills are much more needed in a community like Miami. So ultimately what I want to help accomplish is to help my local community become more active in social justice issues and help them create change in issues affecting latinx and black women — everything from racism to reproductive health to immigration. I really want to help Miami become the social change city that it was always meant to become, and I know it will be difficult but it’s so needed.
5. Can you give an example of how your YP4 Fellowship helped you accomplish something meaningful for your community?
In 2015, my fellow e-board members and I at FIU N.O.W. put on the first ever feminist summit on our campus that covered topics such as racism/sexism in the media, checking our privileges, and decolonization. The first night of the summit we put on a play from the 1 in 3 campaign which was about destigmatizing abortion and sharing abortion stories. We reached many folks who had no idea what feminism was or were wary about it so we gave them this platform where they were active participants in every workshop. It was amazing what we accomplished and I’m very grateful to YP4 for helping to provide the tools so I can help carry this out as part of my blueprint.
6. What piece of advice would you give to a current YP4 Fellows?
I would say to learn from one another and read more on organizers from past civil movements, it’s a great reminder to help us stay grounded in today’s political atmosphere and personally it has helped me from burning out. Also lots of listening. So much growth can happen from that point on.
7. Can you summarize in one sentence the impact YP4 has had in your life?
YP4 has allowed me to grow out of my comfort zone and has allowed me to keep evolving.
8. What do you want to be remembered for?
For planting the seed in other folks to create positive change in their communities, whether at home or on a national level. I want to pass on to others what my mom instilled in me and just help my local community reach its potential in terms of civic engagement.