The Honorary Rising Star Award recognizes amazing Latinos/as who serve as role models to us all and who remind us that with dedication and hard work we can achieve our dreams no matter where we came from or how limited our resources. The Award is presented to an outstanding Latino/a for his/her accomplishments and achievements. The award seeks to recognize Hispanics who are leaders in their communities and have dedicated their lives to empowering Latino youth by encouraging positive change through their active participation and involvement.
Jacqueline Hernandez Founder and Co-Owner The Ark of Learning Childcare Center
Jacqueline made history in 2017 when she became the first Latina elected to office in the Town of Woodbury.
Jacqueline Hernandez, founder and co-owner of The Ark of Learning Childcare Center in Highland Mills NY, is married to retired Detective, Rey Hernandez and mother of four beautiful children: Brianna, Brandon, Amber, and Sam. Jacqueline’s professional journey started with her sights on medical school but through a series of interesting turns found her true passion as an educator, entrepreneur, and community advocate.
Hailing from Brooklyn, NY, Jacqueline has always admired her mother’s resolve to provide a better life for her and her siblings. With only a sixth grade level education, her mother worked several low paying jobs and obtained her GED and Associates Degree in Education. Her mother’s hard work, dedication, and strong faith in God became the foundation for Jacqueline’s road to success.
At the tender age of 12, Jacqueline realized that education would be the key to freeing herself from the poverty that entrapped her family. In 1996, Jacqueline graduated from Colgate University with a BA in Psychology. She began her journey working with youth 1996 at the Boys’ Club of NY, and later evolved into an Earth Science Middle School teacher in 1999. In 2003, Jacqueline obtained her MS in Secondary Education from Mercy College followed by her journey to Orange County, NY. As a resident of the Town of Woodbury, Jacqueline quickly realized the needs of the community and how she could best impact families and youth. After taking a leave of absence from teaching, she opened a small daycare, The Little Lamb Christian daycare, in her home. On the cusp of her husband’s retirement from NYPD, in 2010, Jacqueline and her partners purchased a new home for the childcare program. In five years, the new program, The Ark of Learning, went from 12 to over 50 children. Seven years later, Jacqueline and her husband took her vision to the next step when they purchased an adjacent property totaling 4.5 acres of land. The purchase would provide the space needed to build a 20,000sq ft building that would house programs for infants through young adulthood.
Later that year, in response to a teen suicide in the local high school, Jacqueline took the leap and started a pilot program for teens in the community called the Upper Room. The program was facilitated by volunteers and housed by the Ark of Learning. The program started with 8 teens and by June of 2018, had well over 60 teenagers registered. In July 2018, the Upper Room received its 501c3 status and is scheduled to open as a program in September 2018.
As her program grew, so did her desire to improve quality of life in Orange County. In 2015, Jacqueline decided to support her local officials by attending her party committee meetings. She was quickly approached to run for office. In 2017, she did and her win as the first Latina Councilwoman of Woodbury NY spoke loudly to the changing needs of the community.
Currently, Jacqueline is serving her first year as Deputy Supervisor in Woodbury. She is working on a number of community projects to improve quality of life of families that include: an after school program for Town of Woodbury, radar monitoring for speeding cars near school intersections and crossings, improved communication between the Town officials and the community with a modernized website and park system, and support for local events and initiatives by local residents.
Jacqueline is passionate about her work and continues her vision to improve the quality of life for families in her community one person at a time.
MESSAGE TO YOUTH:
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