Kamila Hernandez didn’t expect to go to college. She has always been academically driven but didn’t consider college possible because her family had never been. Hernandez also wasn’t sure how she would pay for it. Yet, despite her concerns, she applied with help from her high school teacher.
Hernandez knew she had made the right choice when she was accepted to the University of Florida (UF). On top of that, an acceptance into the Machen Florida Opportunity Scholars (MFOS) program provided her with a scholarship package. The MFOS program supports first-generation college students throughout their years at UF, making it possible for Hernandez to attend UF.
“When I was offered a scholarship to UF through MFOS, I knew I had the opportunity to attend college. At that moment, everything changed.” Hernandez said.
Fast forward to 2023, and Hernandez is graduating with a Bachelor of Science in Materials Science and Engineering and a full-time job offer from her dream company Accenture, a company specializing in information technology, services and consulting. Even better, Hernandez’s college experience ended with a full-circle moment: her mentor from the MFOS program is working at the same company in Boston, Massachusetts.
“My mentor helped me choose my major, introduced me to student organizations and pushed me out of my comfort zone. I feel lucky to have guidance from a professional who was once an MFOS student like me,” Hernandez said. “My MFOS mentor messaged me upon receiving my job offer and asked, ‘The first thing you’re going to do is message me when you arrive, right?’”
Hernandez is excited that she’ll be able to answer the question in person this summer.
“We met regularly during my first few years at UF. I’m happy we will continue building our relationship after graduation,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez has many experiences to reflect on from her time at UF. During her undergraduate career, she lived on campus and made memories in Murphree Hall, which she feels added value to her Gator student experience.
“Living in Murphree Hall made me feel so secure and safe. Not only did I get to meet amazing people and learn from their experiences, but I was so close to everything on campus,” she said.
In addition, Hernandez joined Student Government, participated in several internships, studied abroad in Brazil, researched and proved the existence of an unidentified pathogen species and presented her findings at a conference. She also began a student organization called Climate Active Gators, which focused on sustainability and reducing UF’s carbon footprint.
One of Hernandez’s most memorable experiences is working her way up to becoming the graduate coordinator of her favorite student organization, the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers (SHPE).
“Being involved with SHPE introduced me to lifelong friends, gave me professional opportunities like attending conferences and career fairs and ultimately built my confidence to prepare me for post-grad life,” Hernandez said.
Perhaps one of the greatest lessons Hernandez learned while being a UF student is to practice gratitude, particularly for the moments others provided support. She acknowledges how MFOS made it possible for her to be the first of her family to graduate from college. Hernandez said she is forever grateful to be a UF graduate, particularly from the MFOS program, and the critical mentorship, and personal and professional opportunities that helped pave the way for the future that is now possible.