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Alumni Spotlight: Lily Hernandez, Mentor & Mentee Alumni

LILY HERNANDEZ(She/her/hers)

UCLA Mentor Alumni | USC Mentee Alumni


MAJOR IN COLLEGE: Chicana/o Studies: the study of the political identity within Mexican-Americans and their experiences in the U.S. 


An agent of connecting people to resources and advocating for the dreams and goals of others


Currently, Lily is quarantined with her family and working from home. Lily has been able to capture each moment's of her baby brother's growth during this time. Lily is searching for her next step. Since graduating, she's worked with UCLA Institute for Research on Labor and Employment in multiple roles. Lily is seeking roles in higher education and hopes to provide resources to first-generation undergraduate students.

Some WYSE Words Lily would share with her younger self are...

"Don't limit yourself in what you think you can accomplish. Growing up I limited myself a lot in terms of what I could reach. I talked myself out of my dreams, at times. Now, as I've been thinking more about what I want to do, I wish I would've told myself to go for it and continue challenging myself."

What inspires you?

"My family and our communities. I'm first generation - My family has given me the opportunity and resources to go through school, attend UCLA and receive support throughout and after graduation. They have inspired me to be the best I can be. I want to make them proud. I've grown up in L.A. and seen change. The current movements happening around the country are inspiring to me. I want to bring to light the issues and the country and apply that in work and social encounters. I am inspired to view everything through a social justice lens."

How do you feel you've grown WYSEr since graduating?

"I think I’ve grown WYSEr financially and in relationships. I’ve learned a lot since college about financial literacy. We were never taught that in school. I never learned about graduating, getting a job, retirement, etc. I see a sense of maturity in myself - saving, pushing towards financial goals and growing overall.”

"I feel more centered on what healthy relationships look like.” Lily has focused more on her wellness since college. Lily acknowledges the role of code-switching in spaces in college and questioned what she wanted out of relationships. In college, Lily noted that it was hard to move out of certain relationships. Now, Lily uses those experiences to be more aware of red flags, what a healthy relationship looks like, and happily shared that she brought her WYSE knowledge in helping her grow WYSEr.

What inspired you to become a mentee?

"I went to a magnet middle school. We were a small knit group of student and we interacted a lot with the older eighth graders. One day, we were coming back from P.E. and I remember a girl talking about putting condoms on bananas and having a race at the end of their session. She told us a lot about WYSE and how amazing it was! She was telling a crowd of girls about meeting mentors from USC. So, the following year when I was in eighth grade, I was like “Yes! I’m doing this!” A lot of the mentees were able to get closer through joining WYSE. I walked into high school with some of my best friends from WYSE."

What advice would you share with a graduating WYSE mentor?

"Use your network of other WYSE mentors professionally and emotionally. When we enter the real world, we sometimes forget that we have those individuals who are probably going through the same thing. When I graduated, I felt alone because everyone moved back to where they were from. I always say that I would tell graduating mentors to look around you and know that these are your people here and beyond.” Lily wishes she would have done that more and stayed more connected. Lily expressed that it feels “refreshing” talking to WYSE mentors and sharing about what they learned through WYSE spaces.

What are some of your best mentor memories from UCLA WYSE?

"I searched for WYSE on Bruin Walk since my first year at UCLA. I was seeking it out and I couldn't find them anywhere! The transportation director was flyering for WYSE and I heard “WYSE” and ran back to her! I approached their table and said “WYSE, WOMEN AND YOUTH?! You mentor girls?!" It was an endearing moment. I was so happy to learn that there was a WYSE Branch at UCLA. Later, I found of WYSE was founded at UCLA! Of course they have a branch!"

"My first time experiencing a plane ride was through NLTC in 2015. It was a milestone on its own. I was 18 at the time and still a little scared. I had just met Nav and we attended together. Once we got there, we interacted a lot with the USC branch, Maggie and Nicole - It was so fun! We learned so many ways about how others were sharing the WYSE curriculum. It was also full-circle because I had just joined D-Team and I was able to talk to the Board about our struggles. Speaking to the Board at NLTC made us feel like we had the support of the Board. It was bigger than us - it was a national effort."

In an alternate life, what would be your dream job?

Beachside Hotel Owner

What impacted you during your time as a WYSE Mentee?

"As an eighth grader, I was dealing with a lot. WYSE gave me an opportunity to express myself through journaling. Being able to talk to my mentor and write to her meant a lot. I shared a lot of myself and my life in that journal. It helped me connect with her and helped me begin to understand how communication was important. My mentor had a completely different life from me - she was from Carlsbad. I was able to ask her anything and I still talk to my mentor! She helped throughout my college application and adjustment into college."

"The sex education part of WYSE. I grew up where we wouldn’t talk about sex. I remember stopping my Mom during a conversation once and saying “No mom, I actually learned everything in WYSE.” I was able to learn the facts and learn about STIs, consent, whether you’re ready or not. Up until now, I’m so grateful that it was a part of the curriculum. We debunked myths and received facts! I was able to share so much knowledge with others throughout high school."

What is a memorable moment from your time as a WYSE Mentee? "When I was a mentee, the USC mentors would drive us to museums, camps, and the beach during trips! My favorite memory was a beach trip. We had just graduated from the program and USC hosted a ceremony for us. We took pictures with our mentors and they invited their friends. It was so empowering to have mentors and mentees in one space. We felt fancy! We were picked up from our houses and I felt “so grown up” even though I was just an eight grader. It is one of my favorite memories because I was able to spend time with mentors outside of sessions. Sessions were full of love and empowerment, but this beach trip was a moment to learn about everyone outside of that." 

"We also did a self-defense class where an instructor taught us techniques! We were able to visit USC, then, and I was so excited to visit campus. They ended our day with a open-mic where we all were able to share a statement about sexual assault. It was an empowering event that brought to light the different experiences within our group. It centered us and got us thinking about the issues that women faced. It introduced me to social justice issues."

How Can I Stay Connected to WYSE?

FILL OUT our alumni survey so we know where you are and what you're up to! JOIN our Virtual NLTC WYSE Mixer on July 10th - RSVP Here! CONNECT to our Alumni Group on LinkedIn, National WYSE on social media, and reconnect with your branches via Instagram! REACH OUT to an old friend, mentor or mentee from WYSE! JOIN the Alumni Committee! DONATE to National WYSE or your WYSE Branch!

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