Alumnus Completes 125 Hour Service Challenge: An Interview with Michael Hernandez
When St. Edward’s University set out to celebrate their 125th anniversary with a year of service, Michael Hernandez was eager to lend his time. Michael is the first alumnus to complete 125 hours of service for the university and currently works as a Telephone Systems Analyst for the Internal Revenue Service. As the president of the Austin Alumni Chapter, his connection to the university has been strong since his graduation from the Master of Science in Computer Information Systems program in 2007. We had the opportunity to talk to Michael and find out how he accomplished this and why he took on the challenge.
St. Edward’s: Michael, congratulations on completing a 125 hours. Why did you decide to join the 125 Service Challenge?
Hernandez: Deciding to join the 125 Challenge was an easy decision for me. As the leader of the Austin Alumni Chapter, we are always looking for volunteer opportunities in and around Austin.
St. Edward’s: How did you manage to complete 125 hours in such a short time period?
Hernandez: I spent this year as a volunteer with Foundation Communities Volunteer Tax Centers. Performing volunteer tax preparation for others is a rewarding experience. When you can help families in ways they were not aware of, they are very thankful. Completing the challenge did not feel as long as one thinks.
St. Edward’s: What words of advice can you give to others that are contemplating completing the 125 Service Challenge?
Hernandez: Anyone can get involved in the 125 Service Challenge by simply signing up on the website. Don’t be scared by the number of hours. You will be surprised at how much you actually volunteer when you start to write it down.
St. Edward’s: Why was it important for you to complete this challenge as an alumnus of St. Edward’s?
Hernandez: Completing this challenge was important for me both as a person and alumnus. People have helped me when I needed it, so I volunteer when I can, and this year I made a commitment to prepare taxes for Foundation Communities.
St. Edward’s: The Holy Cross Constitution II, 17, has served as the motto for the 125 Service Challenge — “The farther we go in giving the more we stand to receive.” Is this a feeling you can relate to? Is there a particular story or time during your volunteering that you would be willing to share?
Hernandez: I would agree that the more one gives, the more one receives in return.
My favorite times at the tax center are when we help people who need to file multiple tax years and we work one-on-one with the individuals or families to bring their taxes up-to-date and are able to help them receive a refund. It is also encouraging when we help people who come in after doing their taxes themselves and need to file an amended return. Most often we find that credits or exemptions were not included and benefit the taxpayer by receiving a larger refund. This happened mainly due to the stimulus bill and first-time home buyer credit.
St. Edward’s: As a graduate of St. Edward’s, can you speak to the university’s commitment to helping students become transformed by their experiences of community, spirituality and justice, and becoming agents of change in the world? Why do you feel it is important to extend this beyond graduation?
Hernandez: As a graduate of St. Edward’s, you never lose that sense of community. The Alumni Association is very active in hosting a variety of events that keep both the spirit of St. Edward’s alive, but also the feeling of community among the alumni. With the new Hilltop Connect website, alumni can reconnect with former classmates or attend events in their area.