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Maria D. Hernandez, Board Member

Maria was raised in Cruz de Aguilar Romita, Guanajuato, a small town of no more than 600 individuals. She then moved to Woodburn, Oregon at the age of 12, with her family, and has since considered Woodburn home. Growing up in a small town every decision counted and therefore community led. Her experience growing up as bicultural and bilingual led Maria to dedicate her work to  community engagement, connection building, and building power for most impacted communities.

Maria received her bachelor’s of arts degree from Willamette University in Politics with a minor  in Sociology and Latin American Studies. During her college career, Maria’s research was very much connected with her experience as a farm worker. She conducted a community-participatory research titled:  Broken Laws, Families Separated, and Unprotected Workers: The Faces of Wage Theft in Oregon, which examined the many barriers undocumented farm workers faced in identifying and reporting wage theft. Maria’s commitment to wage theft research, lead her to complete her senior thesis titled  Wage Theft and Sexual Harassment in the Fields of Oregon; The Intersectionality of Struggle with the Law for Migrant, Low-­wage Women Workers.  María continues to examine ways to strengthen Oregon laws and policies to recover stolen and report abuses.

After Willamette, Maria went on to complete a  Public Affairs Fellowship with CORO Northern California to then later work as the Program Manager for CORO’s Exploring Leadership Program where she built policy awareness  around issues of police brutality and created leadership development opportunities for students of color.

Most recently, Maria was the Deputy Campaign Manager working to elect State Representative Teresa Alonso Leon, the first Indigenous Latina to represent a district in the state of Oregon. Maria now works as the Advocacy Coordinator at Organizing People/Advancing Leaders (OPAL) Environmental Justice Oregon where she leads advocacy efforts at a local, county and statewide level through Oregon. Maria’s work with OPAL and the Oregon Just Transition Alliance seeks to provide partners access to solidarity networks and opportunities to build people power.