FELIX HERRERA (2008 Awardee)
Mr. Herrera was born in El Salvador and left his family in 1988 to pursue safety and an education in the United States. Initially, he was very discouraged as he couldn’t speak English and was undocumented. These obstacles were difficult and frustrating. His brothers convinced him to keep going and finish high school. Mr. Herrera did just that and finished four years in high school in just three in Washington Lee High in Arlngton; graduating with an amazing 3.7 average.
Mr. Herrera now looked forward to continuing his education and going on to college. Mr. Herrera was able to go to Northern Virginia Community College as an in-state student even though his immigration status was still pending. He received two Associate degrees while waiting for his green card. Finally, Mr. Herrera was able to transfer to George Mason University and earned a Bachelor’s Degree in Government and Politics and a Master’s in Conflict Analysis and Resolution. During his years studying, Mr. Herrera worked as a teacher assistant in Arlington County Public Schools.
Mr. Herrera decided to join the U.S. Army Reserves. While deployed to Afghanistan, Mr. Herrera tried to get involved in education related missions by submitting proposals to build schools in the country side. Again in Iraq, he tried to get involved in education related missions and during this deployment he solidified his commitment to the field of education.
In the fall of 2005, Mr. Herrera returned to the class room and became an elementary school teacher calling it “his most difficult assignment to date”. The following year he began teaching English as a Second Language at Wakefield High School and felt he had found his calling. He is a role model for many students who like him, came to this country in search of education and economic opportunities.
Mr. Herrera is active in the community also. He is a member of the Arlington Education Association, Virginia Education Association, and National Education Association. He serves as president of the League of United American Citizen which is the oldest and largest organization that works to advance the educational, political and economic interest of the Hispanic/Latino community in this country. He is also an active participant of the Arlington Anti-gang Task Force. All of Mr. Herrera’s work is aimed at improving the educational and social conditions in the local community and beyond.