When someone testifies, it is rare that the audience claps in response to what is said. But Latin American Youth Center (LAYC) participant Sharon Hernandez’s testimony at a recent public budget hearing in Prince George’s County was powerful enough to elicit applause.

At the hearing, Sharon, an MMYC AmeriCorps member and a former participant of LAYC’s Leaders Like Me program, testified in front of an audience of 150 to 200 people, including a number of county officials, on the need to support youth programs like those offered at LAYC. Of the sixteen people to testify, only Sharon received a round of applause.

Congratulations to Sharon for helping county leaders understand the important needs of young people in the DC area!

Here is Sharon’s complete testimony:

My name is Sharon Hernandez. I am a senior at High Point high school. I am a former participant of the Latin American Youth Centers Leaders Like Me program and now a member of the LAYC AmeriCorps Roadmap homework assistance program. I have also participated in previous summer programs that LAYC has implemented such as the mosaic and journalism projects at Northwestern high school.

For the past years I have been very grateful to the LAYC staff. They have been kind and helpful. They have helped me with community service, job readiness, college prep, and especially with my communication skills. I used to be shy and quiet but now they can’t get me to stop talking. If it wasn’t for their assistance I wouldn’t be the outgoing young lady that I have become.

They have opened many doors to great opportunities so I can be more involved in my community. I love how they have introduced their “Stop, think and act” method which is a positive decision-making process. This was part of the Gang Prevention program at High Point, which received funding from Prince George’s County. There are peers in our everyday lives trying to get us to do certain things for example: skip school, or use drugs. Ever since I learned about this decision-making model “Stop, Think and Act”, I have been using it and it has been useful.

Now as an AmeriCorps member I wish to pass down these great experiences to my students which I tutor at Buck Lodge middle school. At the school we assist students from grades sixth to eighth with their homework assignments and projects. On certain days we have life skill lessons to make sure they stay in school and pass to the next grade level. If there are any students having trouble during or after school we do whatever is possible to get them the special attention that they need.

The LAYC staff helped me establish goals for my future, and now they are helping me get into college. I would become the first in my family to go to college. Please continue to support youth like me by providing funding to the Latin American Youth Center.

Thank you.

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