Carolina Hernandez can't walk into Ahart's Market in South Bethlehem without being approached by kids from the community imploring: "Miss Carolina, when are we going to do that again?"
That may refer to any one of the numerous fun programs Hernandez oversees as Lehigh's community service coordinator: after-school homework clubs, a monthly "parents' night out," scavenger hunts, arts and crafts activities, and many more.
But the families of South Bethlehem aren't the only ones who benefit from Hernandez's work. Hundreds of Lehigh University students have learned the joy and fulfillment that comes from serving others.
Hernandez also leads service trips during all of Lehigh's academic year breaks, taking students far beyond South Bethlehem. At the end of the spring semester this year, she led a group of students to volunteer for a week at an Indian reservation in Dupree, S.D.
The Lehigh group worked with the Dakota tribe at the Sioux YMCA -- "the oldest YMCA in the country, and the only one on an Indian reservation," Hernandez says. She and the nine students accompanying her worked with children on healthy eating and healthy lifestyle programs (the highest obesity rate in children is among Native Americans), talked to teenagers about considering college, and had a student from the baseball team lead a baseball workshop.
For everything she does, Hernandez was recognized in May with the Alfred Noble Robinson Award, which recognizes outstanding performance to the university and unusual promise of professional achievement in a staff member under 35.
"I really feel that the whole community service office deserved the award -- everyone works hard day in and day out to really make a difference in our community, and I have this amazing staff of 18 students who are the most dedicated and committed students you could possibly have who inspire me every day to work hard," she says.
"I know they are committed to making a difference right here and beyond."
-- Elizabeth Shimer Bowers
Creative Thinking, Common Purpose
Lehigh Alumni Bulletin