Willie Hernandez grew up in East San Jose where college attendance rates were lower than average for Silicon Valley. No family member had attended college. He had limited resources to guide him past high school. Then he discovered debate. It helped him learn the advocacy skills to navigate a path to college, law school and beyond.These same skills propelled him through a legal career that has led to executive roles at several iconic companies, IBM, Amazon and Hewlett Packard Enterprise.
Although Willie was able to navigate his path to success, he understands the challenges for youth in poorly resourced communities to advance. The legal community, along with many other professions, continues to lack diversity. Willie believes SVUDL is uniquely positioned to introduce diversity into the legal profession by reaching students at the right time in their lives who need and deserve access to the skills learned from the debate - the same skills that propel lawyers every day in their own practices.
In the past year, Willie has been instrumental in SVUDL's growth. He is one of the founders of the Legal Mentor Program that helps SVUDL debaters pave the path to law school. The program launched this season and has already paired 15 students with lawyers from top Silicon Valley companies. He has been an active supporter for engaging the local legal community to dedicate their time and finance to support SVUDL. Willie is one of the newest board members, giving us the opportunity to shape our programs with an individual that truly understands the mission and challenges our youth face today.