When David Hernandez enrolled full-time at Palm Beach State College in fall 2012, he never imagined that he would one day become the student trustee.
At 16, he moved to Palm Beach County from Puerto Rico with his newly divorced mother and struggled to learn English. The language barrier crushed his plans to graduate in 2008 with his class at Olympic Heights High School, and, initially, his spirit. But then his neighbor, Bryan Cruz, inspired him to obtain a GED and a higher education. He drove Hernandez to his GED preparation classes and helped him hone his English.
Now, the 25-year-old aspiring nurse anesthetist will take his seat at the dais for his first PBSC District Board of Trustees meeting Aug. 9, representing the school’s 48,000 students for the 2016-17 academic year. A committee selected him for the nonvoting position after an application process open to all students. He is the 16th student to serve in the role since the five-member governor-appointed board created it in 2001 to give students a voice on college policies and issues. He replaces Jesse Pulliam, who served for 2015-16.
“I never, ever thought that I would hold such a position. Now that I have been selected, it does feel very rewarding,” Hernandez said. “I always thought of the position as the pinnacle of leadership at PBSC. It’s a comforting feeling to know that your voice is being represented to address some of the issues and concerns from the student body.”
Hernandez graduated last December with an associate’s degree, following the completion of the gold track, the highest level in the Honors College. He is now enrolled in a nursing degree program.
He has served as an ambassador, president of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and a member of the Student Government Association. For two years, he served as managing editor of the Beachcomber student newspaper, and he has represented PBSC at National Model United Nations in New York and helped with the development of the college’s Model Legislature program. He is currently president of the Nursing Student Association and vice president of Phi Theta Kappa on the Lake Worth campus.
“It’s been an outstanding experience. I’m forever grateful for all of the opportunities that Palm Beach State College has afforded me,” Hernandez said. “From the faculty and staff to the students, I’ve been blessed to receive mentoring opportunities, as well as become part of organizations that represented the ideals of servant leadership.”
Hernandez wants to create a better sense of community among PBSC students, administration, student leaders and faculty. “We can all collaborate to help each other grow,” he said.
He wants to ensure that all students are highly aware of the clubs, organizations and initiatives that open the doors to opportunities like many that he has received.
“Only a few students attend Board of Trustees meetings. Most don’t know the roles the Board of Trustees plays at Palm Beach State College,” he said.
Hernandez also wants to create opportunities for students to participate in New Student Convocation, which is the best time to encourage students to get involved.
Marcella Montesinos, manager of the Honors College and chair of the Student Trustee Selection Committee, said the committee interviewed four students.
“I’m absolutely excited to see David continue what he’s learned through his leadership in clubs and organizations and take that next step to represent the student body,” Montesinos said. “In his interview, he had great ideas on how to be able to hear student concerns. Everyone on the committee was excited about his innovative ideas. We think he’s going to do great.”
ABOVE: David Hernandez