When it comes to helping others, Victor Hernandez has never shied away.
“I just want to show other people that in the face of adversity, you can do anything,” expressed the Fresno State alumnus. “You can reach your dreams, and I want to help people get them.”
Now, after a long road through his undergraduate and graduate education at Fresno State, Hernandez works as a school counselor for Miano Elementary in Los Banos and is making a career out of helping others.
But it didn’t come easy.
Hernandez grew up in Easton, a small farming community just off Highway 41. There, he witnessed the strong work ethic and drive of his mother — a drive he would soon adopt as his own. When Hernandez’s father passed away while working in the fields, his mother took on two jobs — working in the fields by day and as a classroom janitor by night — to support her four children.
“Coming from a single-parent household, we were already facing an uphill battle when my dad passed,” Hernandez noted, “People were telling my mom that we’re all just going to become gang members and that it’s not even worth it. Like, we shouldn’t even try.”
A helping ethic
Despite the odds stacked against them and having numerous people express their doubts, Hernandez’s mother remained resilient and continuously emphasized the importance of education and community service.
“My mom is a pretty stubborn woman and, thankfully, she was able to show them that she’s not going to give up.” The key was helping others, creating a way to help himself.
From a young age, Hernandez was a part of a program called All For One. Almost every Saturday, he volunteered to help build fences, replace roofs, and install lawns for members of his community who could not afford such repairs.
“I will continue to do community service just because everybody needs a helping hand sometimes. You know, if we can help, we should.”
Try, try again
Entering Fresno State as a freshman in the fall of 2008, Hernandez wasn’t quite prepared for what college had in store, eventually leading him to drop out and find employment instead.
“Growing up as a Hispanic in a single-parent household, you think you have to help your mom with money,” explained Hernandez, “You have to do all these things, so I had all of that going through my head.”
As a family-orientated young man, Hernandez did what he saw as best at that moment and took a leave of absence from his education.
In 2014, however, Hernandez found himself ready to make his return to school. Needing to pick up his credits before coming back to Fresno State, he enrolled at West Hills Community College. There, Hernandez received two A.A. degrees — one in criminology and the other in liberal arts, with an emphasis in social science.
Although he had to petition to do so, in 2017, Hernandez was accepted back into Fresno State as a sociology major.
After obtaining his B.A. in sociology, Hernandez continued his education with Fresno State’s counseling program, graduating with a 4.0 GPA and earning his M.S. in counseling in the spring of 2021.
Above and beyond
Beyond his academic success at the school, Hernandez also worked in Tech Lending as a student assistant for the Henry Madden Library. During his time in this position, Hernandez approached each responsibility as he always does — he gave it his all.
Library services specialist and Tech Lending lead Arnel Ordonio says Hernandez was a standout employee. “I can confidently say that he has gone above and beyond his duties as a student assistant. It doesn’t matter what it is. It could have been learning the equipment, or it could have been outreach in general. He’s just a happy person who gets along with everybody.”
Devoted to his work and leaving a great impression on everyone who crossed his path, Hernandez made many lasting bonds while working at the library.
“Getting to meet the people at the Henry Madden Library was amazing,” Hernandez beamed, “If I could, I would still work there, honestly. All of them were just amazing people.”
Receiving help in return
In addition to his positive experience with friends and colleagues, being an assistant for the Henry Madden Library also afforded Hernandez the opportunity to apply to a unique scholarship.
The William Dienstein Library Work Scholarship is a yearly award of $1,000 that a Henry Madden Library student assistant receives in memory of Professor Emeritus William Dienstein. Established in 2004 by Roslyn Dienstein of San Francisco in tribute to her late husband, the award continues to aid the success of sociology and criminology students who work in the library.
With this award, Hernandez was able to buy his books and pay off the rest of his tuition in the final year of his graduate degree.
Building his own legacy
Hernandez is now pursuing his passion of helping others as a school counselor, working with kids ranging from kindergarten to sixth grade.
“My passion is in helping. My goal is to help people be the best they can be. That’s the legacy that I want to leave.”
In his time as a counselor, Hernandez’s leading hope is to change the life of at least one student for the better.
With the encouragement of his mother, his education from Fresno State, his experience with the Henry Madden Library, and that final push from the Dienstein Scholarship, Hernandez leads his life as a person with a deeply rooted passion for helping others.
Ultimately, the help that Hernandez has received has allowed him to help so many more.
(Story by Mallory Crow, library student assistant. Photo courtesy of Victor Hernandez.)