Former Sulphur Springs student returns and shares her secrets to success with a new generation
Many moons ago, Xochitl Hernandez came every day to Fair Oaks Ranch Community School, sat at her desk and learned from her teacher Ken Newton.
Days, months and years passed, and she grew up and her life continued. However, for Read Across America, Hernandez made a special guest appearance via Zoom at Sulphur Springs Community School to speak with a new generation of students under the same teacher.
“It’s been a privilege to give back to my community by doing this for Mr. Newton,” Hernandez said. “I got my start back home. I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the teachers and the people in my life who supported my dreams my entire life.”
“It takes a village and I want to give back to that village,” she added.
Newton invited Hernandez to be a guest speaker for Read Across America, the nation’s largest celebration of reading, which encourages children and teens to read through events, partnerships and reading resources. Hernandez shared with Newton’s fifth/sixth-grade class about her education journey and then stepping into her career as a reporter for NBC 6 in Miami and being an opera singer.
“We’ve talked about, it may sound kind of corny, accomplishing our dreams and working hard,” Newton said. “Life has taken you all over the country, and now you’re living your dream job and going to school.”
Hernandez said her passion for performing began the moment she was on Falcon Television Network, a media program at Fair Oaks.
She remembered it being the coolest thing in the world. Hernandez remembered how she started Foodly Friday, a weekly show about food, because she was so obsessed with food — to this day, even.
After she left elementary school, Hernandez graduated from Los Angeles Unified School District at James Monroe High School and eventually pursued a bachelor’s degree in music and a minor in journalism at California State University Northridge in the San Fernando Valley.
“I majored in music there because, although I love TV and reporting, my big passion is being an opera singer,” Hernandez said. “I’ve always loved singing. I’ve been singing and enjoyed that since I was very little.”
At 22, Hernandez graduated from CSUN in 2019, and she prepared to perform in Europe, but the coronavirus pandemic ruined her plans. She was able to pivot from her original plans because of her minor in journalism.
“What did they need more of during the pandemic — they needed more journalists,” she said. “It was a crazy time. This was a moment in history.”
Hernandez got a job working for KNDU in Washington State. She told students about her time covering the community of Yakima Tri-Cities.
“I am extremely close to my family. We basically do everything together, and I grew up to be such a San Fernando Valley girl,” Hernandez said. “I’ve always wanted to travel the world and I had big dreams for my career, but I never ever thought or expected that I would live for a long period of time anywhere else.”
Hernandez is Mexican American, and her family ties are new, and others are generations old. When she left for Washington, her family and friends were surprised. She described the transition as a lonely experience – moving away, being on her own in a small town that was kind of in the middle of nowhere, during a pandemic.
“I found a home away from home in Washington State and some of my family were peers, coworkers and friends,” she continued.
All the while being a news reporter, she would do her vocal warmups, save money for vocal lessons, and a year later she applied to graduate school in Miami to pursue her master’s degree in music. She got a new job at NBC 6 in Miami, which was a “huge step up,” and she did it all again.
“I’m used to a big city, but I was moving to a bigger city than Washington State. I was moving into a much bigger, more intense market of news that was literally in the top 20 in the nation. I was going to grad school in an intense master’s program for vocal performance.”
Hernandez had to pivot, again, and keep up her hard work to accomplish her dreams, and to even new heights. Fast forward to 2023, Hernandez works part-time for NBC 6 Miami in the early mornings and from there she attends classes.
“I’m at school every day. I’m performing. I’m practicing. I’m taking voice lessons. I’m learning music and having to memorize things every day in German, French and Italian,” she said.
Her story is one that resonates with many young adults. Hernandez is Mexican American, Chicana and her identity motivates her to pave the way for herself and others.
“A lot of the time in our communities, and I know that it was a crazy, big deal, that I was moving across the country for my career and my master’s program,” Hernandez said, “but even my very traditional Mexican grandparents, who were born and raised in Mexico and only speak Spanish, are very supportive.”
According to Hernandez, her grandfather tells her to never give up on her education and her career goals. It’s huge for him because for him to see a young lady across the country without her family on her own – it was a struggle, but he’s so proud of her.
Hernandez also worked for Telemundo, and she expressed her gratitude for that experience. But she described moments when she felt she wasn’t good enough, or when others would send her hate mail about the way she spoke and how she looked.
“I constantly had to find the balance of feeling foreign to certain faces because of my cultural identity, but at the same time I have to pave a way for myself,” Hernandez said. “In opera singing, but also being enough in my own type of Latina in Spanish reporting, because there have been some cases where I don’t feel Mexican enough or not enough.”
Hernandez achieved one dream of being a reporter — she did that in Washington and now in Miami, and each step she takes to obtain her master’s in music, she’s one step closer to finding herself on stage performing opera.
“Miami has been a dream come true, even though it’s been extremely difficult,” Hernandez said. “I’ve been able to pursue both avenues of my art, and that’s journalism and music. At the end of the day, they’re the same thing to me, the same job.”
“They come from the same place inside of me because I’m a storyteller, I’m an artist and I’m both,” she continued.
Hernandez described her experiences as “fighting crime by morning and singing in opera by night.”
“That’s what I have to do because my family raised me to be a hard worker. They’re hard workers,” Hernandez said. “I mean, I come from farmworkers who never complained.”
Fifth graders Preston Murphey and Bailey Welch, Newton’s students, loved her presentation and were inspired by her story. Murphey said he was passionate about soccer and Welch said she wanted to pursue acting.
“She gave me more courage to try harder, because she went through lots of things when she started out. That’s something that you can learn and use in the future,” Welch said.
“You got to learn and hear about how it all started,” Welch said. “It’s about how you act toward people and how you treat them.”