Meet Lauryn Hernandez
"Surviving cancer taught me that I am stronger and able to accomplish much more than I realize."
The whole situation was out of my control, but I knew I was going to school no matter what. I would schedule chemotherapy appointments on Friday so I could go back to school on Monday. My efforts resulted in earning the eighth rank in my class out of 544 students. As long as I was still breathing, I was fighting.
I also joined Air Force JROTC so I could learn more about leadership and compete in Cyber Security (Cyber Patriot) competitions, no matter what my physical restrictions were. Throughout my high school career, our Cyber Patriot teams went from placing in the Silver Tier to the Platinum Tier with me becoming the Commander my junior and senior year. I also created a girls-only team to participate in GirlsGo CyberStart. I wanted to make sure that minority females never felt discouraged to pursue interests in computing like I was in middle school. The girls team eventually went on to qualify for the national round this previous year. Through my four years in JROTC, I have filled leadership positions such as Element Leader, Flight Sergeant, and Senior Enlisted Advisor. This year, I became the Cadet Group Commander of the TX-882nd AFJROTC corps, the highest position available for a cadet, leading 160 high school cadets.
Now that I’m officially declared to be in remission, I work to lead in our community as well and help anyone else who is experiencing childhood cancer, especially teenagers, who are often overlooked. The April following the end of my treatment, I started my own annual hat collection, Lauryn’s Hat Wish, to donate hats for children and teenagers receiving treatment at the Children’s Hospital of San Antonio. While I was there receiving chemotherapy, the only hats available were made for babies. I made a promise to myself that if I had the opportunity to change it, I would; so, every April I ask people to donate hats for my birthday. I have just wrapped up my third year of completing Lauryn’s Hat Wish project by delivering close to 1,000 hats total to the hospital. I’ve received more donations due to a spotlight story by our local news station, KENS5, and sponsorship from the San Antonio Spurs Silver and Black Gives Back organization.
My effort to make a change for pediatric cancer patients did not stop at hats. During my sophomore year, I ran for Student of the Year through the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. In three months, I was able to raise over $10,600 to donate towards cancer research. My ability to involve my AFJROTC unit earned me the Volunteerism Award and a spot on their recruiting team for the next Student of the Year, which I spent helping two of my friends raise over $11,000 my Junior year.
Cancer taught me how to ask for help and how to manage my time to be able to achieve all of my goals. Cancer taught me that I am able to not only be a good student, but a good person. Cancer taught me how to lead others to greatness. Surviving cancer taught me that I am stronger and able to accomplish much more than I realize. By receiving this scholarship, I will perform to the best of my abilities so I can attain a career later in life that I enjoy in cyber security. I like to solve problems, and stay busy and the field of computer science in general reinvents itself every couple of decades, bringing new problems and possible solutions with each evolution. It’s time I show the world exactly what a cancer survivor can do.