Name: Viridiana (Viri) Hernandez
Hometown: Jojutla, Morelos, MX
Preferred title: Public Policy Director, Center for Neighborhood Leadership
Favorite Arizona place: Road trip to Flagstaff, Sedona, Jerome, Prescott. Take the 89A for best views of Arizona!
Favorite drink: Blue Moon
Favorite local project: One Phx ID! One Phx ID is a community-driven initiative to obtain a municipal identification for everyone in Phoenix. Many people in Phoenix—immigrants, children, students, people with disabilities, elderly, indigent community, runaway youth and adult survivors of domestic violence, and others—currently suffer from the lack of identification, which restricts their access to law enforcement, financial institutions, housing, and home and workplace protections. As a result, we have people in our community living in fear and being denied access to everyday necessities. One Phx ID is an idea that came from the community for the community. I am honored to help lead this fight with the strongest and most caring coalition partners.
THIS or THAT: Morning person or Night owl? Hoot Hoot (My bad impression of a night owl)
What was your first real job? Does selling my grandma’s doughnuts, cleaning offices with my mom or working at the swapmeet count? If not, the first job that had hours and hourly payment was at a taxi company; night shift (10pm-6am) as the dispatcher. This was brutal when I had class at 9am! ZZZzzzZZZ
How do you describe the work you do? Powerful. At CNL, we aim to rebuild broken systems (school, city, state) that hurt our families by valuing our community’s input, stories, culture and identity. As the Policy Director for Center for Neighborhood Leadership (CNL), I help oversee our 3 projects: Valor Women Organizing for Justice Program, Safe Schools Now and Academic and Leadership Accelerator for Service (ALAS). Our role is to build local neighborhood leaders. We are blessed with some of the most inspiring and hardworking staff. They work in neighborhoods and schools everyday to build leaders, those leaders build community power through teams and guide those teams to create transformational change through community-driven policy. One of those community-driven initiatives is the One Phx ID, an idea that originated from migrant women in Maryvale, through the Valor Program. We value and reinforce our community’s ability to identify their own problems and solutions.
We understand there are leaders everywhere, many who have not realized their potential and power. I provide training, support, development, and structure for our staff, projects, policy and leaders. I also have the opportunity to build new partnerships, work with value-aligned organizations and lead coalitions. It is a humbling experience to take individuals and projects through that growth process. At the end, whether those leaders stay in CNL, form their own organizations, go into another field or to other organizations; we are confident we have built leaders that will lead with their values and love for community. They will understand their responsibility to create change and be equipped with the necessary tools to be successful anywhere in their life.
What activity do you consistently make time to do, or at least try to?
I make sure to make time to visit my family in Buckeye. Especially to get play time with my niece and little brother and sister. They were once the perfect excuse to watch Pixar and Disney movies and gave me the courage to do it on my own 🙂 I also make time to do my nails, it makes me feel prepared for the weeks ahead and it is a visible reminder when I need to “take care” of myself.
When do you feel most in your element, zone, etc.?
When I am developing/ training an upcoming leader, especially women and youth. I play a role as people gain confidence to create the community they want to live in. It is the most beautiful and humbling feeling to know people trust me to get them through their insecurities and unrealized power.
What advice do you have for your younger self?
I would let my younger self know an important lesson I have recently learned, “You do not control other people’s actions, but you are fully responsible for your own.” Be the best version of yourself. Learn about yourself; every inch of yourself, face the demons in your life, forgive yourself, and don’t base your actions on other people’s expectations or actions. Do something every day to learn about yourself; let’s be the most authentic version of Viri!
What direction would you like your life to take from here?
I am open to all the different ways that my life can take me. The last few years have been a personal struggle; identity crisis, heartbreak, pain, loss… I have found that even in those moments, especially in these moments, I have been connected to the most amazing people, the most beautiful love, the most unconditional support. I am excited for everything that is to come in my life. In terms of my role in my life, I will make sure to enjoy every minute and increase my impact in the world. Increase the smiles I give, the love I show, and the support I provide.
Viri accepting her award for Activist of the Year at the 2015 Stylos Awards.