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Adrienne Hernaez’ interest in cultural diversity led her to BYU–Hawaii

Hernaez sits on a stone wall with palms in the background smiling wearing a golden Polynesian designed dress, earrings and a black graduation gown.
Adrienne Hernaez said she wants to be an elementary school teacher.

Having grown up in the San Francisco Bay area surrounded by different Polynesian cultures, Adrienne Hernaez said cultural diversity motivated her to pursue an education at BYU–Hawaii, where she was determined to succeed.

“Attending BYUH has helped me appreciate the significance of different cultures and build a stronger appreciation for diversity,” said Hernaez, a senior from California majoring in elementary education.

She said her experience at BYUH made her more independent, especially being away from family and familiar things. “I have grown to become a self-sufficient learner in anything I do,” she added.

Speaking about her journey at school, Hernaez said, “I had been heavily involved in the theatre program. I have met many encouraging people who motivated me, and it has been an enlightening experience.”

She added, “Dancing at the Polynesian Cultural Center, joining clubs for Culture Night and performing in shows where people of color are given more opportunities to be cast, truly proved to me that BYUH is a unique place to be.”

Hernaez encouraged BYUH students to study and learn about the Hawaiian culture while in Hawaii.

“Learning about the history and culture of Hawaii opened my understanding and built a stronger respect and appreciation for the native people and enhanced my understanding of the significance of this land,” added Hernaez.

Hernaez walks across a walkway with green-fielded-roundabout and flag circle in the front of the BYUH campus, wearing a black graduation gown and holding a cap in heels and a tan and gold Polynesian designed dress.

Kaipo Wilmeth, Hernaez’s husband and a senior from Hawaii majoring in computer science, said, “She always gives her best in everything she does, and she is not a quitter. She knows how to focus on her work and not get discouraged.” Wilmeth said his wife is a very determined and hard-working woman. “I have seen her take harder classes, which were a challenge, but she persevered and is almost finished,” he added.

Tenille Nagareda, a sophomore from Hawaii majoring in elementary education, said Hernaez is a hard worker and proved herself when working at the Center as a dancer.

“As a dancer at PCC,” Nagareda shared, “I was awkward and shy at times, but [Hernaez] was so nice and cheered me up when I was down.” Nagareda added Hernaez is a welcoming and down-to-earth person.

“Hernaez is a great listener. She gave me advice without demeaning me in any way, especially on relationships.”

According to Nagareda, Hernaez taught her, “Even if everyone around you is choosing to be rude, you can always choose kindness.

“There was a time when I felt like I was alone, and I was hating my life. Hernaez was there to uplift my spirit and make me smile,” expressed Nagareda.

Hernaez said she was proud of the knowledge she had gained at BYUH. “I plan to become an elementary school teacher or a teacher’s aide. I am also going to audition for a master’s program in acting next year.

“My ultimate goal is to become an acting professor and do regional professional theater.”

“Life is hard,” she said. “But I would like to encourage students to take breaks and not stress too much. Just focus on what you are learning and don’t stress too much about the letter grade.”

Nagareda encouraged Hernaez to keep her head high and believes she’ll do amazing things in the future.

“Through your work ethic, kindness, and loving example, you will touch many hearts and accomplish anything.”