At lastmonth’s Breakthrough New York gala, Breakthrough students mingled with the crowd and talked with them about their experiences. One such student was Amanda Hernandez, who is a true story of success. She later delivered remarks from the stage.
Below is her speech:
Good evening everyone and welcome to our first annual benefit! Breakthrough New York is an organization that has provided me so very much and I am honored to have the opportunity to share in this momentous occasion with all of you. I’d like to tell you my breakthrough story-
I first heard about BTNY when Sam Marks visited my 6th grade class at East Side Middle School. His excitement for education was contagious and after hearing his words I knew that the BTNY community was one I had to be a part of. Upon acceptance into their first entering class in 1999, I found myself engaged in a learning environment that was not only supportive and inspiring, but diverse in its vision and style of teaching.
Taking part in such a unique classroom setting, I was able to master topics in ways that I never before experienced in school and enjoyed learning from young teachers who I could relate to. Although, I would be remiss not to mention how excited I was to learn to step dance!
After finishing the BTNY program, I went on to attend The Juilliard School’s pre-college program and La Guardia High School of Music and Art where I specialized in classical flute performance. Following High School, I applied early decision to Columbia University and was accepted to their 250th entering class where I majored in Neuroscience and Psychology with a pre-medical studies concentration. Never would I have imagined as a BTNY student that within such a short period of time I would go on to accomplish so very much. BTNY helped make this possible.
In the summer of 2005, I returned to BTNY as a teacher, very eager to give back all that was given to me. That summer was one of the most transformative experiences of my undergraduate career. I taught biology and chorus to an incredible group of students who both challenged my intellect and taught me the power of being a strong role model and educator. It was then that I truly became aware of the vast disparities present within our education system and how it is our duty as educated individuals to reach back into our community and support the burgeoning young ambitious minds that desperately need cultivating.
I carried these values with me through the remainder of college where I mentored high school students as part of Columbia’s reach out program.
Fast-forwarding a few years, I am currently entering my 5th year as a dual degree candidate at Yale University’s MD-PhD program where I am pursuing my PhD in neuro-immunology and ultimately wish to enter a career as an academic neurologist. My experience as a BTNY student and teacher has never left me. Currently, throughout the academic year, I am the graduate assistant at Yale’s Latino Cultural Center.
During my summers at Yale I have also dedicated time to teaching. I taught biology and career development to undergraduate pre-medical students as part of the Summer Medical Education Program and last Summer, I served as the research coordinator for Yale’s Biomedical Science in Training Program. Both SMDEP and BioSTEP aim to target underrepresented students in medicine and science with the goal of increasing their chances of matriculating at a US medical or graduate school.
In all of my teaching related endeavors I work closely with Latinos and African American students, many of who are the first in their family to attend college. I have already had the amazing pleasure of seeing many of my students enter medical and graduate school.
Breakthrough has been a key part in my success- I was the first in my family to attend college and will be the first physician-scientist. Carrying along the BTNY mission, I have never forgotten to reach out to my younger counterparts and help guide them through the academic pipeline. Changing and revolutionizing our education system is an ongoing mission, one that I am wholeheartedly committed to and one that began with Breakthrough.
The beauty of education is that it is forever ongoing and rewarding. It is my hope that you will join me in supporting that effort and moreover in supporting Breakthrough New York.
Together we can ignite change and support the dreams of 200 other kids just like me.