Goshen News, Goshen, IN

Local News

November 4, 2012

YOU SHOULD KNOW: An ex-migrant worker earns her way to associate dean of Goshen College

GOSHEN — Rebecca Hernandez used to work in fields during the summers of her childhood in Idaho.

The daughter of migrant worker parents, she spent many days working and harvesting.

Yet, she only ever worked in the fields in the summer, because the rest of the year was spent at school, something her parents emphasized to all of their children.

“I remember, it was near the end of summer, and I was excited to go back to school. I was working next to another little girl, and we had become friends, and I was talking about how happy I was to be going back to school,” Hernandez said, thinking back on her childhood. “I asked her if she was happy, and she said, ‘I don’t get to go to school.’

“I didn’t know other people didn’t go to school,” she continued.

The importance of education that her family pressed upon her has now become her life’s goal. Hernandez, or, more technically correct, Dr. Hernandez, is now the associate dean of Intercultural Development and Educational Partnerships. She is hard at work prepping for new master’s students in January through the newly created Intercultural Leadership degree program from her office within the newly constructed Union space on the college’s campus.

But she didn’t start out that way. First, she was a social studies teacher in middle and high schools, and then she spent time as a social worker and educator after earning her master’s in public administration in Oregon. She worked to teach families, especially Latino families, the importance of education and nutrition. It was in these moments when she began to write about families, cultures and education.

“I was out in Portland when I heard about an opportunity in Goshen, Ind.,” she said.

She arrived in Goshen just over five years ago, and she said she’s grown to love the small town.

“The mix of cultures here was surprising to me,” she said. “I did not expect the mix I found when I came here.”

It’s the little things about life in Goshen she said she finds interesting — even what roadway obstructions she comes across.

“I was talking to my sister coming into work one day,” she explained. “I was in a traffic jam, if you can call it that here, and I saw that all the cars were going around an Amish buggy. I told my sister, ‘I’m not in Portland anymore.’”

For all of the social adjustments she’s had to make, Hernandez said she likes the Midwest.

“I couldn’t imagine doing this (cultural work) anywhere else,” Hernandez said. “Goshen College is a place where you can bring your faith here — it’s very rare... My personal goal is to create socially just spaces for people to fulfill their potential through education — it’s a thought that I’ve really worked on an crafted. It’s what God put me here for.”

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Three Goshen elementary schools — Chandler, Chamberlain and West Goshen — are providing free meals to all students during the school year as part of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Community Eligibility Provision of the Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Nearly 80 percent of students at Chandler, 89 percent of students at Chamberlain and 78 percent of students at West Goshen already qualify for free or reduced-price lunches based on their family income. How do you feel about the new lunch program?

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