Hersilia Mendez, Director of External Affairs and Communications for the National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools, will be honored for her strong leadership and commitment at the Seventh Annual Professional Hispanic Women's Conference on Wednesday, March 19, 2014.
The conference will be held at the Salomé Ureña de Henríquez Campus at 4600 Broadway New York NY 10040. For more information, call Lydia Aguasanta at 212-942-1383 or Leila Arbaje at 718-663-9546.
How long have you been with The Children’s Aid Society?
I have been with Children’s Aid for 21 years – I began in 1993.
Describe how you became involved with CAS, up to your current position now.
I began in 1993 as the art consultant and instructor for P.S.5 and I.S.218, the two first Children’s Aid Society flagship community schools. My job was to ensure that we provided high quality art programs during after school and summer. I was also teaching art at P.S. 5 and to the Intensive Care Education Program, a very successful intervention for at risk students at I.S. 218. I was fascinated by the community school concept; particularly the way they were welcoming immigrant parents into the schools and helping them engage with their childrens’ schooling (something that I never saw in Forest Hills, where my children grew up). I became an active advocate of community schools and in 1995 was invited to join the National Technical Assistance Center for Community Schools (now National Center for Community Schools), founded in 1994, as Deputy Director. I became Director of External Affairs and Communications in 2010.
How do you feel about being honored at the 7th Annual Hispanic Women’s Conference at SU campus?
It's a great honor, I feel humbled.
From your personal life, who is a female role-model that inspired you and how have they made an impact on your life?
It may sound too common place but my mother has been my role model. She was born in 1915 in a little town in the Pacific coast of Colombia. She was a “mulata” in a very racist and patriarchal/male dominated country. She was a woman ahead of her time. A feminist both at heart and active, that passed those values on to her three sons and three daughters. She was a highly accomplished professional and intellectual, who worked outside of the house until she died at the age of 75. She married my father when she was 32 years old (unheard of at the time) and was at my father’s side when he died 42 years later. All of her six children have advanced academic degrees - she totally believed that education and equity go hand in hand. All to say, that she truly juggled being an amazing mother, a supportive wife and a very successful career women, at a time when most Colombian women were expected to be only housewives, or work at dead-end jobs. I’m grateful for being her daughter!
Historic or/and contemporary, who is a female role-model that inspires you and what has been their contribution to society?
Historic woman: Simone de Beauvoir, a French feminist, political activist, intellectual, writer and thinker. Reading her book "Memoirs of a Dutiful Daughter" when I was 15 years old, was central to the woman I became and still am. That book reaffirmed my mother's upbringing. I firmly believe in womens’ rights as essential to human rights, and in the value of education, I also passed on those values to my daughter and my son, just as my mom did to us. Simone de Beauvoir was a big force behind the Women’ Liberation Movement of the 60s, 70s and 80s –a liberating movement for millions of women around the world –unfortunately there is much still to be done, we need many more women of Beauvoir’s caliber to inspire the new generations.
Contemporary Women: I’m inspired by many Dominican women that I’ve been in contact with in Washington Heights during my 21 years at Children’s Aid. Lidia Aguasanta, for instance; I truly can write a book about this amazing woman that has inspired hundreds of community members (men, women and children) to develop their potential. Candita Suero, who against almost insurmountable odds raised a successful family. I believe in unsung heroines and heroes. I can go on and on. And of course I’m inspired by Hillary Clinton, she’s fantastic.