By Maya Williams
James Hernandez, 25, believes he is the “most grassroots, community-led” candidate.
He grew up in Edgewood Independent School District, his mother and other family work at Alamo Colleges and faculty encouraged him to run.
He also wants to fill the generation gap between the board and students.
“How are these board members, who are two, maybe three, generations away from our current students, going to even walk a campus to talk to students?” he said. “Because I don’t think it’s happening.”
Growing up in a low-income area with under-funded schools also drove Hernandez to run.
Hernandez received a Master of Education degree from the University of Utah and a Bachelor of Psychology from Our Lady of the Lake University.
When he and his mother discussed Alamo Colleges as he studied education, she mentioned Bruce Leslie, the Alamo Colleges chancellor.
He didn’t know who nor what a chancellor was.
“The first thing I think of is ‘Star Wars,’ this evil Sith guy,” he said. “Unfortunately, I was kind of right.”
Hernandez believes some polices enacted during Leslie’s “reign” should be eliminated, including removing tenure, high reliance on adjuncts and replacing in-person classes with online.
After Hernandez completed his grad program, he was approached by faculty and students to run.
Hernandez at first was reluctant.
The more people he talked to, the more enraged he became at some district policies.
“The faculty is really engaged and they really want the students to become civically engaged in this process,” Hernandez said. “Honestly, maybe it’s just because there’s been a lot of issues, a lot of policies that are not working well for those schools.”
Despite a steep learning curve, Hernandez has many supporters who provide resources and help him stay informed about the community.
“That’s a benefit of actually speaking with people in the community where they actually have things that the board may not know they have access to,” he said.
If Hernandez is elected, he promises transparency and “bringing the board out of the shadows.”
“To me that’s an issue … people can make time with what they care about, especially with the Alamo Community College board having such a huge (budget) and such a huge responsibility to the entire city, board members should make time to know what the community they’re serving needs.”
Communities need to be more engaged, he said.
“The board members could also encourage students and faculty to speak up and let them know they’re being heard,” he said.
Hernandez hopes there will eventually be a community college closer to central San Antonio.
Building a new community college would have to wait until the other colleges are stabilized, he said.
“We can’t grow another limb when the rest of the body is dying,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez’s top four issues are restoring tenure, providing child care, increasing tutors and increasing senior citizen schooling.
“Child care is something I want to focus on,” he said. “If someone’s willing to go to school to better their lives, to better their opportunities for their children, they should be able to.
“We need to have opportunities for senior citizens to come back to school,” he said. “They vote, they’re the ones putting people in positions.”
Hernandez is still learning the full function of the board, but what he has gathered is to keep track of money, keep administration in check and make sure the Alamo Colleges is known nationwide.