As a Resilience AmeriCorps VISTA in the city of El Paso, Jenny Hernandez helped write the city’s service plan and managed the Cities of Service Resilience Ambassador Program in El Paso, which prepared local businesses for emergencies through workshops and energy retrofits. At the conclusion of her term of service, Jenny was hired as the Grant Administrator for El Paso’s Department of Community and Human Development. As Grant Administrator, Jenny manages the projects that come from Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) recipients.
How do you think your service year impacted your present job?
I know how city government functions and the processes that come along with it. Over my two years, I’ve made so many connections, specifically with citizens of El Paso. I have a network of people I can call on when projects come up. Residents trust me when they see me at public hearings. I’m someone they can depend on to get something done. All of this is giving me a leg up in my new job.
I saw that the way to get effective change is through the community. They’re the ones that have to participate, they have to be involved, they have to voice what they want, and that’s the only way we are going to be able to change anything.
Did you go in with any expectations that changed during your year of service?
I have so much respect for city workers now—they have such a hard job.
People think that city government has the ability to make things change but I saw that the way to get effective change is through the community. They’re the ones that have to participate, they have to be involved, they have to voice what they want, and that’s the only way we are going to be able to change anything.
How does the mission of your new employer align with your goals and values?
The whole point of the Community Development Block Grant is to improve vulnerable and low-income communities. I’m providing a service to vulnerable populations and I’m doing it in a way that’s effective and will matter for community members 10 years down the line.