Holding the torch of hope: The story of a Latinx Lumberjack and her mission to change the world

As a child, Guadalupe Hernandez had two dreams. “First, I wanted to be a pop star—so original, right? Second, I wanted to change the world. I didn’t know how, but I knew I wanted to help those who needed it.”

Though she was writing songs at the age of seven, and enjoyed singing and dancing in the girl group she created with her cousin and sister, Hernandez always found herself helping others. Growing up in a low-income, single-parent household, she knew how hard things could be for people and she just wanted to be any help she could.

“Things started to click for me one day when I had gone over to my tia’s (Spanish for “aunt’s”) house to help my cousin with homework,” Hernandez said. “She told me how natural a teacher I was and it got me thinking—I wanted to teach so that I can change the world.”

Originally, she liked the idea of becoming a high school music teacher, but realized she was her happiest and best self when surrounded by younger children. So, she decided to pursue a degree in early childhood education.

Hernandez, who grew up in South Phoenix, visited NAU a few times in high school thanks to first-generation programs and her school.

“I instantly felt at home at NAU,” said Hernandez, a senior studying early childhood education and early childhood special education. “The people I met there, the weather, the environment, it felt right. So, I decided to trust my heart and come to NAU.”

As a first-generation college student, receiving her degree was more than something she wanted to do just for herself. It was for every member of her family who hadn’t had the opportunity.

“I am the person who is holding that torch of hope for my younger family members to show them that they can do it too.”

Knowing NAU is recognized as a leader in its education programs made her decision to move up north even easier. She was able to get into the classrooms and work with students early on in her program, adding incredible value to her educational experience.

“NAU had a lot of valuable resources for me,” she said. “I loved being in SSS (Student Support Services) TRiO for first-generation students. They helped make the transition into college easier and taught me what I needed to do to excel. The only way I could think to repay all the staff who helped me is to show them the type of teacher that they have shaped me to be.”

Hernandez is student teaching in a first-grade class at Knoles Elementary School in Flagstaff and is also a W. A. Franke Scholar in the College of Education this year. After graduation, she plans to travel abroad to teach English then return to graduate school to earn a master’s degree in early childhood education and/or early childhood special education.


Northern Arizona University LogoMcKenzie McLoughlin | NAU Communications
(928) 523-4789 | McKenzie.McLoughlin@nau.edu

NAU Communications