CHCA Alumna Azu Hernandez ’20 featured in Taylor Magazine
Contributed by Angi McCarty for University Advancement, Taylor University
Life in Guatemala
When you meet Azucena Hernandez, the first thing you will notice is her warm smile and easy laugh. Behind that joyful spirit is a courageous, motivated, hard-working, and deeply spiritual young woman.
For the 2020/21 academic year, Azu was the recipient of a Student Assistance Scholarship. This scholarship, combined with work-study opportunities, is allowing Azu to pursue career aspirations that are rooted in her desire to use the opportunities she has been given to help others.
Azu and her four siblings grew up in Guatemala, in the small village of San Miguel Duenas. Azu's non-English speaking parents had big dreams for her future, often working extra jobs to be able to send her to a school where she would learn English.
Her early education consisted of public school during the day followed by after hour classes at an English-language school. When she entered high school, Azu had to travel to Guatemala City each morning with her father Hector, leaving home at 4:30 for the ride into the city. Her return each evening involved a two-hour ride on three different chicken buses (buses that farmers use to take their chickens to market) arriving in time to complete her homework and repeat it all the next day.
Coming to the U.S.
In 2017, the English-language school Azu attended received a scholarship offer from Cincinnati Hills Christian Academy (CHCA) of Ohio. The Schott International Student Scholarship allows for high school students from Eastern Europe, Guatemala, Mexico, and other under-represented countries to experience a CHCA education. Out of hundreds of students considered, Azu was the top choice to come to the U.S. to attend high school.
As a 17-year-old, Azu had never spent a night away from home or traveled more than a few hours from her hometown. Determined to embrace the opportunity, Azu left behind her close-knit family and boarded a plane for a life she knew nothing about. Her first year in the U.S. was full of adjustments as she adapted to a new family, worked to excel in classes taught in her second language, and developed a new community of friends.
Todd '90 and Natalie '90 Pfister served as Azu's host family during her second year in the U.S. "Azu is a giver," says Natalie, "someone who enriches whatever community she joins." As a student at CHCA, Azu earned straight A's in a challenging college prep curriculum; was part of the Ultimate Frisbee club; a member of the varsity swim team (though she had never been on a swim team before coming to the U.S.); and led two service groups, one designed to help new international students form friendships within the CHCA student body.
With her joyful disposition and willingness to invest in relationships, Azu quickly connected with her host family. "She is now considered a beloved member of the family," says Natalie. "Her faith has been deepened through difficult circumstances of the past year, yet God's faithfulness has been a constant reminder of His plan for her life and her future."
The Pfisters say that it's this sense of receiving a gift from God which carries with it a responsibility that motivated Azu to pursue a university education in the U.S. and one of the reasons they encouraged her to consider Taylor. "Azu feels compelled to equip herself with career training which will enable her to return to Guatemala to give back to the people of her home country," says Natalie.
Azu's desire to make a difference in her homeland's health care system began when she witnessed over-extended and under-resourced doctors trying to care for a seemingly endless line of patients outside a hospital clinic. Inspired to be a part of a solution to the health care crisis in Guatemala, Azu began to dream of a career in the medical field.
"Because my family has limited resources," says Azu, "I never thought I would be able to attend a college in the U.S. But my dream is coming true." In 2020-2021 Azu completed her first year of studies as a Biochemistry major. "Studying at Taylor University has been a life-changing opportunity for me," adds Azu. "I am thankful for the generosity and kind hearts of the families that provided for my scholarship."
And that is hope multiplied. From parents who dreamed of an education for their daughter, to a young woman who imagines the day she will make a difference serving the needs of the people of her home country, to the countless Guatemalans who long for a functioning public health system that is challenged by a growing population.
Although there are many ways to be involved financially with Taylor, scholarships provide a unique opportunity to directly invest in preparing today's students to be knowledgeable, skilled professionals who engage the significant challenges of their generation while sharing the redemptive love of Christ.
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