January 09, 2018
Diana Hernandez is our Urban Warriors Program Director for YMCA of Metro Chicago's Youth Safety and Violence Prevention (YSVP) program. Urban Warriors is a 16-week curriculum which pairs veterans with youth in Chicago to address trauma. Diana was previously the YSVP Program Director at the Humboldt Park, Garfield Park and Logan Square location.
For Diana Hernandez, joining the YMCA’s YSVP initiative seemed to be fated. On her last class, before graduating with a master’s degree in social service administration from The University of Chicago, she met Eddie Bocanegra, former executive director of YSVP. At the time, Eddie was still at YSVP and was also a student at the University of Chicago. They spoke about Diana’s passions, what she wanted to do career-wise and her interests that happened to line up with the work of the YMCA of Metro Chicago and YSVP.
Born and raised in East Los Angeles, her family moved to Chicago looking for financial stability and hope for a better future. She enrolled in City Colleges of Chicago, later transferring to Northeastern Illinois University where she graduated with a bachelor’s degree in psychology and minor in social work. Her work with the Intensive Supervision Appearance Program (ISAP), where she provided community resources for individuals in immigration proceedings, confirmed that she wanted to do more hands-on work, which led her to attend The University of Chicago.
For the next 2 years, Diana was the program director for YSVP at the Humboldt Park, Garfield Park and Logan Square site where she mentored youth and facilitated the program. Now, she is the program director for Urban Warriors, a YSVP program that pairs recent military veterans with youth who have experienced high levels of trauma exposure. Youth in this program learn positive strategies for coping with trauma and loss and are given key tools for improving their physical, mental and emotional health through a 16-session curriculum.
In her new role, Hernandez is involved in both the planning and implementation of the program. Diana says, “I’m really excited to be in this role which allows me to continue to advocate for the youth and veterans. It is because I was involved in facilitating the curriculum that I was able to build relationships with the youth and veterans over all allowing me to have an in depth perspective and understanding of the challenges and trauma they encounter.”
One of her goals in her new position is to focus on bringing in grants that focus on helping young women affected by violence in Chicago. Diana says, “violence prevention focuses a lot on young men, but the girls are still very much affected by violence and they know they are often overseen.”
When asked about her motivation, without a second thought, Diana mentions the youth in the program definitely motivate her, especially “seeing them grow as they reflect and process their trauma”.