Summer Bridge Spotlight: Omar Agustin Hernandez
Meet Omar Agustin Hernandez, one of five participants selected for the 2023 Summer Bridge program. A PhD student in the Department of Anthropology, Omar worked with Strides Shelter: City of Champaign Township.
How have you applied your humanistic training to advance the mission of the community organization?
One of the core missions of the Strides Shelter is to “reach a population of community members who are often seen but overlooked.” I’ve been able to apply my training to help reach out to a variety of community organizations and build connections between them and the shelter to get precarious community members access to much needed resources.
How has this experience contributed to your career development? What skills have you gained or developed?
I’ve been focused on providing help wherever it’s needed, which includes a variety of tasks that aren’t necessarily applicable to an academic job. However, I think that the process of community outreach, compiling resources, and formatting them in a way that’s easily accessible for the workers here at Strides have definitely sharpened skills that I will be using as a doctoral student and potentially as a professor moving forward.
What have you learned from working with this community organization?
I’ve learned a lot in my time with Strides Shelter so far. It’s been inspiring to see the amount of people and community organizations looking to make a difference here in Champaign, as well as the resiliency of the community members who have to constantly overcome dehumanizing structures and have made the difficult decision to seek help and make use of the shelter. I will say, I’ve been a little surprised to see the lack of outreach or services for people experiencing homelessness that are coming from the university itself. Part of our responsibility—as academics who often extract so much from the communities around us—is to find creative ways to redistribute resources back. I’m hoping that, as a public institution, the university can also play a bigger role in addressing problems impacting precarious members of the community.
Is there anything else you’d like to share about your Summer Bridge program experience?
I’m grateful to everyone at the Strides Shelter who have accepted me and been nothing but kind and welcoming throughout my time here. Although the program is only two months long, I’m excited to continue to support Strides in any way I can, as I continue through my doctoral program.