Recent Grad Helps Mayor Engage Latinx Community

Aly Hernandez's background sparked her passion for public service
Aly Hernandez, far right, with a group of volunteers previously supporting Jorge Flores' campaign.

Prior to joining Kansas City, Missouri, Mayor Quinton Lucas’ office, UMKC Honors College graduate Aly Hernandez (B.A. ’19) worked on his election campaign as well as efforts for U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II and the Jorge Flores campaign for Wyandotte County Commissioner.

Portrait of Aly Hernandez
Aly Hernandez
(B.A. '19 with University Honors)

Now, as external affairs manager, she is helping connect Mayor Lucas with the Latino community.

“Aly is a vital member of the Mayor’s Office, bringing to work each day her creative ideas, passion for change and positive mentality. Never does Aly forget why she chose a career in public service—which is to increase opportunities for the community she’s from. Aly has been an important liaison between my office and the Latinx community throughout Kansas City, especially during this uncertain period of COVID-19, and we appreciate her tremendously,” said Mayor Quinton Lucas.

We spoke with Hernandez recently about her role in city government, her love of learning new languages, and what fuels her passion.

Tell us about your role in Mayor Lucas’ office.

I assist the Mayor by providing recommendations for city boards and commissions, brief him on current events and information prior to events and meetings, create social media posts and act as our onsite field coordinator for various community and office events. Recently, I began acting as our communications liaison with local Spanish media and have translated various interviews, speeches, and statements for Mayor Lucas.

How do you keep the Latinx community engaged with the Mayor and vice versa?

COVID-19 is a great example of how we have kept our community engaged with the Mayor and vice versa. Our office has continued to provide Spanish language translations for our Spanish-speaking community almost immediately as it has been shared. We’ve kept a weekly Spanish radio spot and have been increasing Spanish interviews for the Mayor. I’ve also increased the number of Latino community events he attends and panels and townhalls he participates in.

What is VozKC? Why is it important?

I am a member and co-founder of the organization Voz Kansas City. We are a new Latinx Organization advocating for and advancing the role the Latinx community plays in the community and within politics. Our goal is to support political candidates whose interests align with ours and increase the number of Latinx candidates in our elections. We also support equity education initiatives and are heavily focused on the immigration debate in our country. 

VozKC is important because the Latinx community is the largest growing electorate, meaning that our voting potential and voting power will continue to grow in the years to come. Thus, it is crucial to have organizations like VozKC to work on Get Out The Vote campaigns and be involved in the policy making process. It is also important to have representation in all political offices

“I want to help people in the way my family would have wanted to be helped when we first moved to the city.” —Aly Hernandez, B.A. '19

Have you attended any of the Black Lives Matter protests with Mayor Lucas? Do you brief him on the events? Has there been any policy instituted as a result? 

I have attended Black Lives Matter Protests with and without the Mayor. I keep him up-to-date on any major things that may arise, but I am also there as a supporter for BLM. The Mayor is currently working on a few initiatives that resulted from the protests such as introducing an ordinance directing the City Manager to examine any city ordinances that have negative racial/bias language and directly affect people of color along with working with the Board of Police Commissioners and forming the Public Safety Study Group. 

What are the challenges of your job? The benefits?

The most challenging part of my job would be how quickly your day can change. Sometimes we go into the office with an idea of our plan for the day and then something changes which impacts our entire day. We just have to be comfortable with never knowing what each day might bring.

The most rewarding part of the job would be how fast or quickly something can get passed by the council and almost immediately help people. It’s amazing how much non-partisan local governments can do without polarizing political views interfering with day-to-day Mayor and Council operations.

Aly Hernandez with Rep. Emmanuel Cleaver at a fundraising event.
Aly Hernandez, left, with U.S. Rep. Emanuel Cleaver II at a previous fundraising event.
Where does your interest in politics and public service stem from?

My interest in politics and public service has to come from seeing my family, friends, and neighbors live difficult lives. My parents and I are immigrants. I grew up undocumented in the northeast part of the city and am a product of public schools. I grew up hearing my classmates say that college wasn’t even in their minds, much less graduation. I’ve seen, and experienced myself, how families who have homes often struggle just to pay their utilities or struggle to provide basic services for their families. I want to help people in the way my family would have wanted to be helped when we first moved to the city. 

What advice do you have for students who want to pursue a career in politics or public service?

Sometimes change doesn’t happen immediately. It can take a long time, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any less worthwhile to continue the effort. Patience is important in this field, but the relief in seeing the project through is like no other.

“Sometimes change doesn’t happen immediately. It can take a long time, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t any less worthwhile to continue the effort.” —Aly Hernandez, B.A. ’19

What brought you to UMKC?

I knew I wanted to be close to home and within a city that could provide me with many internship opportunities and scholarships. I found that at UMKC, and I also found my niche there as well. I think UMKC was big enough for me to get the large university experience, but small enough where I could get to know my professors and be involved on campus.

Why did you choose your majors of criminal justice and French?

I knew I wanted to get into politics and Criminal Justice fit perfectly with what I wanted to do. By focusing on crime, I’m able to apply those skills here in the office as needed as well. I’m currently getting a master of public administration in urban policy and my background in criminal justice helps me understand policy making and research that my professors often discuss in our classes. I also love learning languages, and French was always something I wanted to take when I was in high school but was never able to take since they only offered Spanish. I hope to learn another language soon.

What is something you learned about yourself at UMKC?

I learned that I should take care of myself as much as I am determined to help others. I never really paid much attention to self-care until I went to UMKC. I appreciate all the efforts they made to help us relax and have fun apart from just studying all day. Self-care really stuck with me even after undergrad.

Why did you and your family come to the United States?

My mom left Mexico to give us a better opportunity in life. She grew up poor and wanted more opportunities for my sister and I. She left her life behind and crossed the border like millions of others did to join my grandparents in Texas. She didn’t see her mother for 17 years until she received her green card. She made a huge sacrifice, and I will always be appreciative of it.

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