On Nov. 30, Jennifer Hernandez, EdD, professor and program coordinator of Human Services at CT State Community College Middlesex (formerly Middlesex Community College), located in Middletown, was honored with the Impactful Woman award by Fox61 and the United Way of Central and Northeastern Connecticut. Dr. Hernandez is also a program manager at the Family Enrichment Center located at The Hospital of Central Connecticut in New Britain, a part of the Hartford HealthCare system.
The Impactful Woman award was part of the inaugural ImpaCT Awards presented during a ceremony in Hartford on Nov. 30 and to be broadcasted by Fox61 on Thursday, Dec. 7, at 7 p.m.
“What an exciting honor to receive the United Way and Fox61 Impactful Woman Award. I’m so honored to contribute to the work for CT State Middlesex and the hospital’s Family Enrichment Center. Thank you to everyone who came out and celebrated with me. It was an honor to share this experience,” said Dr. Hernandez, who graduated from Middlesex with an associate of science in 1995.
According to the event’s website, the award recognizes “a female leader whose mission is to help and empower other women. She is a leader and an inspiration, creating opportunities for others and ensuring she is making Connecticut a better place. A true mentor to other women, this award winner has a dynamic energy and drive to do great things in her community.”
“I always say that we need to be mindful of our moments—stating that in life, we need to not be so arrogant to assume we have another moment to say what needs to be said. We have to understand every moment matters. We can change the trajectory of lives with our words,” said Dr. Hernandez when accepting the award.
Dr. Hernandez joined the Middlesex faculty full-time in 2017 and, in addition to serving as the Human Services program coordinator, she teaches Introduction to Human Services and College and Career Success courses. She is also a former part-time social work professor at the University of Saint Joseph in West Hartford and human services professor at Tunxis Community College (now CT State Tunxis).
While a professor at Middlesex, Dr. Hernandez established the Listening Lounge, a collaboration with the University of Saint Joseph, that offered counseling services for the past six years. It was a quiet retreat space for students experiencing emotional and mental health issues to receive one-on-one counseling from graduate school interns supervised by a licensed clinical social worker.
On campus, she coordinates the annual Clothesline Project, a nationwide vehicle to educate the public about the magnitude of the issue of violence against women. Participants display T-shirts as a medium to express courage and honor a survivor’s strength to continue.
Dr. Hernandez designed and created the Family Enrichment Center in New Britain in 1999, which is now part of the Hartford HealthCare system. The center offers services in child development through home-based parent education, group work, education support for teen parents and community-based outreach to aid in prevention of high-risk behaviors.
In addition to teaching, Dr. Hernandez continues her work at the center and employs Middlesex students among the staff.
Middlesex 2023 graduate Kaoutar Tayoubi-Elidrissi, who works at the center, nominated Dr. Hernandez for the Impactful Woman award.
“As her previous student and now her employee at the Family Enrichment Center, I continue to be encouraged by her work, stories and motivations. She has been instrumental in providing quality care and support to her students, teens and parenting families and has been a great mentor to her colleagues,” said Tayoubi-Elidrissi. “The award is a well-deserved recognition for an extraordinary woman whose commitment to education and community continues to inspire us all.”
At Middlesex, Dr. Hernandez is working with the Workforce Development office to establish a doula training program at the college. She said she hopes to include human services models as part of the training. She is also collaborating with Norma Rosado-Javier, program coordinator of Early Childhood Education at Middlesex, and CT Office of Early Childhood to bring a national early childhood training workshop to campus in the coming year.
Dr. Hernandez is publishing a book about teen parenting, stemming from her doctoral dissertation that examined “the effects of dispositional optimism on older teen mothers’ ability to achieve academic success.” Drawing from her own life experience as a teen mother, she says it took “courage to choose” in order to survive.
“The book is motivational about how to deal with being a teen mother, and it can be used as a sounding board for practitioners. I’ve always specialized in working with teens” she said. “As a teen, I’ll see someone laughing and playing. I wished I could do that, but I always had to be a grown-up. That’s why working is so comfortable to me. We don’t play—we’re surviving. It’s a very courageous choice to be a parent under the age of 16.”
In addition to her Middlesex degree, Dr. Hernandez earned a Bachelor of Science in Human Services/Counseling from Lesley College (Cambridge, Mass.), a Master of Science in Human Services/Organizational Leadership from Springfield College, and a Doctor of Educational Leadership from the University of Hartford.
“Dr. Hernandez’s influence extends beyond the classroom, touching lives and shaping futures,” said Tayoubi-Elidrissi. “Her dedication to her work is truly inspiring, and I cannot wait to follow in her footsteps.”