By Esmeralda Garcia, Ivanhoe Sol
Monica Fernandez, a 28-year-old Ivanhoe resident, is featured for this month’s community spotlight. She lives by the Shep Hyken quote, “Recognize that every interaction you have is an opportunity to make a positive impact on others.”
Monica is the second youngest out of five children and was raised by both her parents before her father unfortunately passed away two years ago due to cancer.
Growing up in Ivanhoe, Monica remembers attending Ivanhoe Elementary and the after- school HEART program. She also attended Ivanhoe’s former Youth Center which was located at Presbyterian Church, next to Ivanhoe’s Veterans Memorial Hall in Ivanhoe. She shared, “I remember when I was in fifth grade at the Youth Center, Sandy would do art activities with us.” Monica also explained that her favorite summer activities during her childhood were playing hide and seek, going on bike rides with her neighbors and riding the Loop Bus to the Manuel Hernandez Community Center in Visalia.
For the past eight years, Monica has been working with youth in after-school programs. While attending a Zumba class during the summer of 2015, she saw a flyer posted for after school program positions available through the Boys & Girls Club. She applied and was hired where she eventually became a director. While working at the Boys & Girls Club, she also was part of the ribbon cutting ceremony for the grand opening of the Bob Felts Sr. Field which is located outside the Boys & Girls Club. She looks back and remembers getting signatures from the community with the help of students who attended the after-school program for the closing off of Azalea Avenue.
She would also like to see a full park in Ivanhoe where youth and their families have access to play sports and a positive place for youth to stay out of trouble.
Monica, along with Ivanhoe Community Council’s Chair Mayra Becerra, are also the founders of the annual “Trunk or Treat” event which started three years ago identifying a need for more safe and free community events for Ivanhoe families. Other events that Monica has been a part of include: Summer Night Lights, providing community service hours for youth, providing Thanksgiving meals to surrounding community businesses to show gratitude, coordinating with Ivanhoe Library to provide crafts for students, help beautify Ivanhoe by picking up trash with youth, and advocating for the community by attending Ivanhoe Community Council Meetings.
Monica recently started a new afterschool position with HEART at Ivanhoe Elementary. She says “I love working with youth and hope to make a positive impact in their lives. When I was in third grade, my teacher, Norma Cano at Ivanhoe Elementary inspired me to be involved with the community.”
Monica continued to share that the most rewarding moments are when former students visit her.