NHA Women's History Month: Dr. Elizabeth Hernandez

Dr. LizDr. Elizabeth Hernandez, known around the office as Dr. Liz, came to the Neighborhood House Association in 2008 as the Vice President of Social Services. But before heading 10 of NHA’s 12 social service programs, Dr. Liz was a 13 year-old student at Riverside Community College. Dr. Liz is the first generation in the United States on her father’s side, and the second on her mother’s side, and her parents always taught her that education was the key to a successful life. Dr. Liz took their lessons to heart, and the values instilled in her by her hardworking parents are the reason she is an instrumental member of the NHA family today.

Dr. Liz was born in East Los Angeles, and lived there with her family until she was 6 years-old. Her grandmother wanted to move to a safer neighborhood in San Bernardino, and her parents decided it was a good move. The oldest of 5, Dr. Liz remembers both of her parents working very hard to put her and all of her siblings through private school. Her mother worked the day shift, her father worked the night shift, and her grandmother lived in the house with them and ensured they were always taken care of.

“Very early on, I knew the sacrifice my parents made for us, so it kind of helped me step it up a little bit, and make sure that I focused on goals and focused on providing myself a better life,” Dr. Liz said.

Dr. Liz began her college education before she even started high school. Since she wasn’t busy over the summer, her mother enrolled her in courses at Riverside Community College when she was just 13 years-old. When she graduated high school, Dr. Liz had earned so many college credits that she could get straight to work on her major classes once she began her studies at a university. She graduated from Azusa Pacific University in two years and began a Master’s/Ph.D. program at the California School of Professional Psychology (now Alliant) at the age of 20.

“Yeah, I made some pretty good decisions in my life, but at the end of the day it’s about God, and what He’s provided me, and what He’s allowed me to do. I’m just very grateful, “she said.IMG_0037

Today, Dr. Liz is married with three daughters, 5, 4, and 2 years-old. She is pleased with the life she has created with her loving husband and beautiful children, and she’s fulfilled knowing that she does meaningful work at NHA. As happy as she is, the work ethic she inherited from her family will never allow her to be content, and it is this attitude that drives her to continually strive to be a better wife, mother, and daughter. It is also the attitude that inspires her to reach for excellence at NHA.

As the Vice President of Social Services, Dr. Liz oversees 10 of NHA’s 12 programs: Adult Day Health Care, the Geriatric Specialty Program, the Senior Service Center, Friendship Clubhouse, Project Enable, Project In-Reach, HIV/AIDS Services, Nutrition Services, Housing Counseling, and the Homework Center.  She enjoys working with such a wide range of programs and services because her experiences allow her to learn multiple lines of business at once.

“My goal is to continue to diversify and grow, and develop the programs into very stable, high performing business units. I’m hoping that’s the impact I’ve had, and continue to have,” she said.

Dr. Liz and her team have certainly worked hard to develop quality programs.  In 2010, the Senior Service Center received a facelift from Extreme Home Makeover, updates that the center has maintained ever since. In 2013, the Adult Day Health Care Program became a dual care provider, offering both Adult Day and Adult Day Health Care services. The Homework Center opened in 2012, and the majority of students have improved one letter grade in subjects they have received tutoring in. Dr. Liz and her team are always looking to find new ways to serve the community, and are currently working on additional programs.

Dr. Liz knows that while she heads the programs, she hasn’t done all of the work by herself. She says she was fortunate to have some long tenured employees on her team when she came to NHA, and they help her to execute her duties to her best ability.

“These employees are very passionate about what they do. They really believe in the mission and vision of the organization…working with them gives me energy, and helps me do what I do on a daily basis,” she said.

With the help of her team, Dr. Liz hopes to continue building upon the work she’s done over the last eight years. Inspired by the hard work and sacrifice of her family, and the self-discipline she inherited from her parents, Dr. Liz looks forward to many more learning experiences as a leader at NHA.

“I never get bored here, I’m always learning something new, and having the opportunity to work in a meaningful way is just amazing. You can’t really ask for anything more.”