Liset Hernandez '16 gives her sister a voice

Brandeis senior takes work and research on disability policy to a whole new level

Photo/Mike Lovett

Liset Hernandez

Liset Hernandez '16 has spent the last four years at Brandeis, but in some ways she never really left her hometown of Venice, California.

That’s because the Heath: Science, Society and Policy (HSSP) major is a legal advocate for her 9-year-old sister, Araceli, who has special needs.

Hernandez’ experience working on behalf of her sister has shaped much of her time at Brandeis, where she has studied disability policy with professor Dolores Acevedo-Garcia and earned a World of Work (WOW) fellowship.

“My advocacy for my sister is one of the reasons I’ve done disability research,” Hernandez said. “I’ve been working with Araceli since I was 14, so I’ve definitely found ways to manage my school and also help my family.

“But studying here has increased my knowledge of disabilities and working with families, as well as understanding the legal frameworks for disability policy.”

Unlike her classmates, who typically apply what they’ve learned to schoolwork or internships, Hernandez has found a personal, real-life way to grapple with disabilities.

In fact, she has intervened on behalf of Araceli many times to get her sister speech therapy, a better learning environment and admission to a private school.

Hernandez, who is in Acevedo-Garcia’s office at least once a week, says, “I admire professor Dolores, she’s one of my inspirations and I definitely have learned a lot from her.”

Acevedo-Garcia believes Hernandez is already qualified to work professionally as an advocate because of the way her personal experiences have shaped her understanding of disability policy.

“It was shocking to me that someone in her early 20s was such a successful student at Brandeis while also helping her family and her sister on the opposite coast,” Acevedo-Garcia said. “Liset has a quiet way of doing it all, and she overcomes many barriers.

“I think she will one day be someone who plays a role in disability policy issues. The experiences she’s had give her perspective.”

Liset Hernandez is the Anna Kominsky Scholar.

Categories: General, Humanities and Social Sciences, Research, Student Life

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