Bold and outspoken, Omar H. Hernandez has leadership skills that were not obtained by having a previous student government position. Rather, his involvement in the industry that he is most passionate about has given him the tools to be the next Fresno State Associated Students, Inc. (ASI) president.
“Agriculture is the most important industry. Every person needs agriculture every day,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has not always been interested in agriculture. He was passionate about football during his elementary years and aspired to play the sport during high school.
To his dismay, a broken clavicle kept him out of the season during his freshman year at Riverdale High School (RHS). Since he couldn’t spend time playing sports, Hernandez filled his free time with a new passion.
The first time Hernandez became interested in agriculture was in Scot Miner’s introduction to agriculture class.
“Omar came into my class with a big smile and a curious nature,” said Miner, an agriculture teacher at RHS.
That passion for agriculture grew immediately and drove Hernandez to become vice president of his high school’s chapter of the Future Farmers of America (FFA), where he helped organize committees and worked with other officials.
“Omar developed a love for agriculture that he wanted to share with everyone he came in contact. He was especially motivational during our primary school Ag Adventure Days, talking to over 600 students each year, where he was a strong advocate for ag literacy,” Miner said.
Hernandez obtained his American FFA Degree at the National FFA Convention & Expo in October 2018.
Born in Clovis, Hernandez attended Burrel Elementary School until the third grade. He continued his education at Riverdale Elementary School and graduated from RHS in 2016.
As a first-generation college student, Hernandez has had to blaze his own path while at Fresno State. He became an Ag Ambassador member for the Jordan College of Agricultural Sciences & Technology in spring 2017.
He had the opportunity to go out and speak with high school students about the importance of agriculture, which allowed him to practice his networking and people skills. Hernandez said he is not afraid of approaching people and striking up conversations.
Most of his motivation and values come from his family, he said. Hernandez’s dad constantly reminds him to work hard and never give up despite the circumstances. His godparents, Jack and Hillary Godfrey, have been another big part of his life.
“They support me the same way that my family does,” Hernandez said. The Godfreys and Hernandez are not related by blood.
The Godfreys met Hernandez during his fifth-grade year of elementary school. Godfrey was the coach of the Riverdale Youth Football League when Hernandez joined.
Hernandez’s parents were often working and couldn’t pick him up every day after practice. The Godfreys became the “football parents” of Hernandez and many of his teammates.
“I would make them work on homework before practice,” Hillary Godfrey said.
Hernandez spent a lot of time at the Godfreys’ house while his parents worked. Sometimes, Hernandez would walk to the Godfreys’ house alone after school and spend time there without telling his mother.
The Godfreys quickly became close to Hernandez. During middle school, Hernandez asked them to be his godparents for his first communion.
The ceremony was in Spanish, and Hernandez had to guide Hillary on what to say and do. Hernandez’s mom only speaks Spanish, and Hillary only speaks English. Over time, Mrs. Godfrey and Hernandez’s mom have been able to understand each other without the need for an interpreter.
“It’s been nice over the years, celebrating the holidays as a family,” said Hillary who, along with her husband, has spent holidays with Hernandez’s family.
His godparents have been actively involved in every part of his life ever since. When Hernandez received his American FFA Degree, Hillary traveled to Indianapolis with him and said she felt very proud of his accomplishments.
“He was well-focused, involved with everything and very approachable. I saw him grow,” she said.
Hillary said Hernandez is an excellent communicator and will represent Fresno State’s student body as a whole.
In fall 2018, Hernandez joined ASI for the first time as a member of the Diversity and Equity Committee. The same year, Hernandez met Demi Wack, the current ASI president, and many other executives during the annual ASI dinner. During the event, the executives encouraged him to run for an ASI position.
At first, Hernandez was doubtful about running for office. He didn’t have a big team to help him with his campaign, and he didn’t have the experience that other candidates had.
During that time, Hernandez asked himself, “What is the worst that can happen?”
He realized he didn’t have anything to lose and decided to run for office. Since then, Hernandez said he has enjoyed challenging himself and others to try and participate in the things that they are even slightly interested in.
On April 11, Hernandez was announced as Fresno State’s 2019-2020 ASI president.
Wack said she’s excited about Hernandez taking her position and believes he will bring a new perspective to ASI.
“We haven’t had an ag student as ASI president for a long time,” Wack said.
Hernandez is an animal science major, which he believes will offer a new perspective to the Fresno State campus with his excitement about creating a sense of pride and involvement among students as well as raising awareness about what ASI has to offer.
Hard work, reaching out to students and networking are some of Hernandez’s strategies for next year.
Hernandez is actively involved on campus as he dedicates his free time to volunteer opportunities and meeting new people. From time to time, he said he likes to visit the math club, the Veterans Office, and the chess club, among other student organizations.
“I like to take advantage of my time,” Hernandez said.
As for his future after Fresno State, Hernandez said he is open to all the opportunities that life will have to offer him. He sees himself as a farm owner and, eventually, a teacher, and hopes to help low-income students accomplish their dreams.
“He has a great love for life and wants to help make education meaningful and important to all students,” Miner said.