CHULA VISTA For more than 30 years, Southwestern College Superintendent/President, Norma L. Hernández, has shined in higher education, particularly in the community college arena. Her dedication to providing educational opportunities to people of all ethnic backgrounds made her a star at the Fiesta de las Estrellas gala and earned Hernández an “Excellence in Education” Award.
Since 1998, the University of California-San Diego’s Hispanic Scholarship Council, has recognized the achievements of Hispanic leaders in five areas, including education, healthcare, and community service. The awards are presented every year at the Council’s Fiesta de las Estrellas gala, which also raises funds for scholarships for Hispanic students. This year’s awards were presented April 7, 2005.
“It is such an honor to receive such recognition. I’ll share this award with our students who are really the estrellas,” said Hernández, who was born and raised in Tijuana. “It feels great to be able to provide educational opportunities, especially to Hispanic students.”
“These Estrellas are outstanding citizens making a real difference in our communities and serving as positive role models for our youth,” said Robert Villarreal, 2005 Fiesta Co-Chair.
A product of community colleges, Hernández has dedicated her life to advancing and promoting higher education. She joined Southwestern College in 1975 and since has served as the Dean of Counseling and Guidance; the Dean of Student Services; the Vice President for Student Affairs; and, now she is the Superintendent/President for SWC, the only institution of higher education in South San Diego County.
She is truly dedicated to the advancement and success of Southwestern College and its students. She takes higher education very seriously, always keeping students at the forefront.
Hernandez has a reputation throughout the Hispanic community and beyond as someone that cares. In 2003, Hernandez received the Madrina Award, presented by the Latina Leadership Network of the California Community Colleges to individuals who demonstrate outstanding leadership skills and provide guidance and mentorship toward all Latinas. That same year, the San Diego Business Journal presented her with a Women Who Mean Business Award in recognition of her outstanding contributions to the San Diego community.
In 2004, Hernandez was recognized by both Cox Communications and the San Diego Hispanic Chamber of Commerce as their Hispanic Heritage Month honoree. She also served as the Bonitafest Humanitarian at the 2004 Bonitafest.
Hernandez’s ability to empower and inspire stems from her desire to give back to those that helped her succeed. A single mother, Hernandez spent many years struggling and working very hard to overcome her hardships. Along the way, she received a little help from some friends. She believes the time has come to pay back her debt.