Melissa Hernandez shares story of success

Published 10:32 am Tuesday, August 22, 2017

By Brooke Reich
University Relations

MURFREESBORO – Considering her sterling track record, it’s hard to imagine anyone would be unable to recognize her potential. Yet, recent Chowan graduate, Melissa Hernandez says, “Just five years ago some family and people from my neighborhood predicted that I would be 18 years old and pregnant. They said I would drop out of school. They told me I would never leave the Bronx. They told me I would never amount to much.”

They could not have been more wrong. She’s the first to admit she’s a talker. But the talent of effectively communicating with all kinds of people has led Hernandez down the path to places she never thought she’d go, including a mission trip to Cuba and study abroad trips to Scotland and the Holy Land.

Since her arrival on campus in August 2013, she has excelled in leadership positions while serving others

Melissa Hernandez is a 2017 graduate of Chowan University. She was named as the Best All Around Graduate of her class.

through her work with organizations such as the E3 Worship Team and Rotaract. Using her faith as her guide, Hernandez is committed to helping people create a better future and to the welfare and dignity of each student and community member. For her work, Chowan honored her with the Faith in Your Future Award in April 2016 and named her Best All-Around Student in 2017.

Throughout her career at Chowan, Hernandez has promoted student life on campus and inspired students to focus on leadership, scholarship, and community service in order to gain success in life.

She ran for Miss Chowan University in the Fall of 2016 and took a uniquely low-key approach to campaigning, posting just twice to Facebook. But her message effectively re-contextualized the nature of the competition. After enumerating her (lengthy) on-campus resume, Hernandez wrote, “I tell you all of this not to boast, but instead to let you know the extent of my commitment to Chowan University and its students.”

She went on to reiterate, “I do not want to win to add something to my resume or for a title, as there are plenty of other opportunities for that. I seek your vote because I know that I have spent the last three years at Chowan University helping students academically, organizing events for the students here, and dedicating hours of time to community service both on and off campus. These are all things that you should consider when choosing your next Miss Chowan.”

She was truly humbled and honored when the results revealed her victory.

“Chowan University prides itself on being a diverse University,” Hernandez says. “Its diversity has opened doors for students who are often counted out in society due to their minority status. I’m honored to be part of making history as the first Hispanic Miss Chowan University.”

Hernandez is outspoken and opinionated, two tons of dynamite in a short but feisty package. She learned early to put all that passion and drive to good use. She credits a good deal of her success to her mentor, Bervin Harris, cofounder and CEO of Renaissance Youth Center in the Bronx, NY. Harris encouraged her interest in politics, which sparked as early as age 10. He also cultivated her innate leadership qualities, inviting her to serve on the center’s youth council at age 13. At 18, Hernandez was instrumental in the creation of Youth in Power, made up of young people from all five boroughs to spread positive change across New York City. By participating in mayoral meetings, community boards, and partnering with community organizations, Melissa and others on the council began to grow into the advocates so desperately needed by their peers and neighborhoods.

“I have passion for people,” Melissa says, “and I think that’s what he [Bervin] saw in me. I care about change. And I’ve always wanted to impact change, even when I was little.”

Upon arriving at Chowan University, Hernandez quickly got involved and set her sights on high achievement.

“I looked at the students who were succeeding above me,” she says, and decided, ‘That’s going to be me some day.’”

Melissa says she is not naturally a good student, but she fell in love with the history department, especially thanks to Dr. Greg Taylor.

“He always says to just make an argument and support it. And I can do that!” she says.

Prior to graduation, she served as Co-president of the Honors College Student Association, President of the North Carolina Phi Chapter of the Alpha Chi Honor Society, a Presidential Ambassador, a Resident Director, a member of the Ethics Bowl Team, and a Campus Tour Guide. In the past, she has served as the President of the History Club, member of The Brown Lady magazine editorial board, and Team Captain of the Brown Lady Academic Bowl History Team, which won three championships during her tenure.

In addition to the Alpha Chi Honor Society, Hernandez is a member of the Pi Gamma Mu Honor Society, Phi Alpha Theta Honor Society, Alpha Lambda Delta Honor Society, and Sigma Tau Delta Honor Society. In February, she was recognized as a Who’s Who Among Students in American Universities and Colleges for the second time. She is widely acknowledged as one of the shining stars on campus.

When asked what she would go back and tell that 18-year-old girl whose family and friends predicted she would never amount to much, Melissa grows thoughtful. “I would tell her never to let anyone else define who you are. I would remind her to listen to the people who see more in you, not less, and who encourage you to pursue that.”