This summer is the norm for Alina Ivette Fernandez. Since she was 12 years old, she has been a youth advocate for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. Now 20, she is in Washington D.C. working with Senator Charles Schumer of New York at the nation’s capitol.
“I focus a lot on the Latino community because they are a group that is disproportionately affected,” Alina says. “I want to help form an AIDS-free generation.”
Alina represents a number of organizations, but all her work relates to combating HIV/AIDS. She works with Senator Schumer, with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute (CHCI), and from there she has expanded her 8-year involvement with Advocates for Youth. Her coworker at CHCI, Sarah Audelo, was thoroughly impressed with Alina’s drive after knowing her for only a few weeks.
“Honestly, Alina is one of those Latinas that gives me faith for the next generation,” Audelo says. “She is the one that shows you have to engage younger people and then they will do the work and run with it.”
After several years of activism and inspiring others to join the cause, Alina has earned better resources to reach a larger audience. She recently spoke at a national convention for HIV/AIDS awareness. She plans to continue this work for a long time.
Name: Alina Ivette Fernandez
School: Seton Hall University
Hometown: Scranton, PA
Favorite activities: I have really taken to volunteering. I do a lot of it through different organizations. I get to meet a lot of people, hear their stories, and know why they are motivated by certain causes. I get called to actions about special issues. I am at a point in my life where I am deciding what calls me most by discovering what other people are passionate about, [which] helps me narrow my list down.
I’m passionate about… right now, my time in DC here has shown me that the fight against HIV/AIDS—especially in the senior population and Latino community. Young people are more personally affected. We have to get our youth involved. I think that Latino youth involved in the initiative should be taken seriously because Latinos are disproportionately affected and under recognized.
What my summer has in store: Well, I have been interning the Senator Schumer of New York Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute. I am a legislative intern in the office. Fridays I go through educational programming to explore new opportunities and organizations. Then while working with the advocates for you, I was asked to represent young Latinos and speak at the international AIDS conference.
My inspiration: My mother. She is wonderful and passionate and dedicated. She works; I have seen her go above and beyond for her students and people in the community, people know her name. I see how people react to her. They’re happy. She has always taken care of people. If I can muster that kind of compassion for the world, I can make an impact.
Short-term plan: I am going to go back to school in the fall, and in the spring, I will be interning with Advocates for Youth in the HIV/AIDS initiative this spring. Then I am going to apply for Public Policy of International Affairs, which is a summer program dedicated to careers in public policies. I have been a peer educator since I was 12 through the United Neighborhood Center.
In 10 years, I see myself… finishing my PH/D in public policy or Latin American studies. I am thinking more public policy. My experience here in D.C. has changed a lot of things I’ve taken for granted. I wanted to be a board service officer with a specialization in Latin America, but it made me want to dedicate myself to American foreign policy. Now I want to focus more on public health.