Ramiro Hernandez ’23 started his fall break off with a bang, taking part in the Harvard Kennedy School’s 2021 Public Leadership Conference earlier this month.
One of just 68 undergraduates from across the U.S. chosen, Hernandez relished the chance to build community with his fellow attendees.
“Hearing all of the projects, initiatives, and change-making that other students are pursuing at campuses across the country was inspiring,” says the honors medical anthropology, peace & conflict studies, and educational studies special major from Hidalgo, Texas, “and I found comfort in sharing a virtual space in which everyone was vulnerable enough to discuss our fears and aspirations.”
The mission of the conference is to inspire student leaders — particularly those from historically underrepresented and underserved communities — to pursue careers in public service. Participants learn what it means to study public policy in a graduate school environment and have opportunities to connect with current Harvard Kennedy School students, faculty, and staff as well as their fellow attendees
“I also really enjoyed hearing from the representatives of various public policy programs, as I learned a lot about financial aid opportunities and fellowships that I was not aware of,” Hernandez says. “I finished the weekend with the confidence that pursuing a career within the field of public policy is the path I’m meant to take.”
After missing the cut for the conference two years ago, Hernandez was nervous about opening the notification email for this year’s event. But being selected at this time proved fortuitous.
“I’ve become much more grounded in my politics, my beliefs, and the multiple truths I hold dear,” he says, “and I feel much more confident in my change-making abilities.”
Among Hernandez’s activities at Swarthmore are serving as student body vice president, a programming intern with the Intercultural Center, campus treasurer of the Petey Greene Program, and co-chair of the League of United Latin American Citizens Federal Training Institute Partnership. Earlier this year, he was chosen as a reporting fellow for the Pulitzer Center on Crisis Reporting.
A first-generation college student, Hernandez has a broad interest in public service that is grounded in his experience as a second-generation immigrant growing up in a border community in the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas. He is intent on using every opportunity he receives to move resources where they are most needed, ensuring that future generations have everything they need to live well in their communities.
Reflecting on the conference, Hernandez points to the excitement of “meeting 67 other folks who come from backgrounds similar to mine and are just as passionate as I am about improving the conditions of various communities around the world.”