Editor's note: This story is part of a series on Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Board of Education candidates. The Daily Tar Heel is not endorsing any CHCCS school board candidates.
Mariela Hernandez, a Carrboro resident running for a seat on the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education, said she hopes to bridge gaps between families in underrepresented communities and the district, and to help those families receive the support they need.
Hernandez works for Orange County’s Rapid Re-Housing Program, which aims to quickly return unhoused individuals and families to permanent housing. Before working with the Rapid Re-Housing Program, she previously worked as a family navigator for Orange County’s Family Success Alliance, an organization that aims to help families in poverty gain access to helpful resources.
Hernandez was also involved in the McDougle Middle School PTA when her child attended the school.
“I advocate for community,” she said. “I might not be an educator — I want to hear from educators and understand what their struggle is going through the school system themselves.”
During the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, Hernandez said she and her fellow PTA members sent out a Google Form questionnaire to the entire school to gauge the needs of students and families.
“We were able to connect families to rental assistance, build assistance [and] materials that the teachers could send out to kids in school,” Hernandez said.
One concern Hernandez has is the attitude of educators toward children — specifically nonwhite children — in regard to post-high school plans.
“We have faculty that tells our kids that either they’re college material or not, and words are big — they can influence a child when they don’t have 100% belief in themselves,” Hernandez said. “I want that to change. I want teachers to be teachers, faculty to be trained to be culturally adequately knowledgeable and not to have assumptions on our children.”