One of the missions of Cal State San Marcos College of Education, Health and Human Services is to prepare students for highly skilled and ethical healthcare careers through collaborative engagement with community and regional partners.

Melissa Hernandez took this vision to heart.

Thanks to her high activity on campus — including a 3.8 GPA — and in the community, Hernandez was named the 2022 Dean’s Outstanding Graduate for CEHHS.

“When you’re nominated for something, you don’t really expect to get it,” Hernandez said of his honor. “As the first member of my family to go to university and get a bachelor’s degree, it’s quite surprising but rewarding. I guess I’m not used to being recognized for my efforts, but this is an opportunity. It made me feel really grateful for everything and everyone involved.

When Hernandez arrived on the CSUSM campus four years ago from nearby San Pasqual High School, she — in her own words — didn’t know what she was doing. As a first-generation student, she had no one in her immediate circle to show her the ropes.

But when this stage of life challenged her, she met it head-on.

Hernandez tapped into her passion for helping others while immediately connecting with as many teachers as possible. She knew her future was in her hands.

“I walked in not even knowing how to register for classes or how to navigate the entire college system,” said Hernandez, a human development major. “I did not expect to receive this award or even to graduate. It was difficult with a lot of discoveries on my own. But with the people around me and the services provided by Cal State San Marcos, it was important for me to be a part of it all. I started to feel that everyone had the same chance here.

“Sometimes you go to schools or you hear about other schools that don’t have the same thing as us. And I think it’s important that everyone is included.

Hernandez’s passion for helping others manifested through two opportunities this school year as she completed an elementary school service-learning project and also completed an internship virtually while working full-time. .

She currently works at Vista Community Clinic as a Community Health Specialist. She engages in the food distribution program at the clinic, visiting two towns each week to deliver food to people living in poverty. She also works for the clinic’s mobile medical unit, which provides free health services, including COVID-19 testing and vaccine distribution.

She set up some of her CSUSM classmates for a focus group hosted by the VCC for youth perspectives on mental health resources in San Diego County.

“I learned a lot about different ways to give back to the community and how to show up for your community,” Hernandez said of his work at VCC. “And I think that reflected in a lot of my work at school. Working full time for this job was insightful because at the same time what I’m learning in class, I’m practicing at my work.

On campus, Hernandez demonstrated leadership through campus activities and serving fellow students. Since the fall, she has served on the CEHHS Committee on Inclusion, Diversity and Equity as a student representative.

In this role, she shares her thoughts and concerns from a student perspective to improve the campus climate. She is also an active member of the Society of Pre-Health, a CSUSM student organization whose mission is to engage students in health-related issues and activities and to facilitate student career exploration. in health care.

After graduating this month, she will take a year off to pursue a career in public health. She will spend that year taking the prerequisites to be ready to apply for a physician assistant program with a master’s degree in public health.

She also wants to get certified in phlebotomy to gain more hands-on experience in the medical field while maintaining her job at the clinic.

It may take her a few years to reach her goal of becoming a physician assistant, but Hernandez is already deeply committed to making a positive impact in her community.

“In the healthcare system here in America, there are so many social determinants of health that need to be addressed,” Hernandez said. “Working for the clinic and as an outreach worker in the community, I have seen the disparities that communities face in terms of health issues and health services and what is available to them. So I think I’ll take it with me and continue to expand my training into my practice as a PA and my work that I do in the future.

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