CHEP student is the youngest ever to be named Woman of the Year for assembly district

Liliana Hernandez is an eighth-grader enrolled in OCDE’s Community Home Education Program. She’s also a Girl Scout, an amateur rocketeer and an aspiring doctor.

Oh, and she recently became the youngest person ever to earn Woman of the Year honors for her local assembly district.

In March, state Assemblymember Cristina Garcia, D-Bell Gardens, named Liliana among the 2017 Distinguished Women of the Year for the 58th Assembly District. Nine honorees were selected to represent each of that district’s nine cities. Liliana, 14, won the distinction for Downey, her hometown.

“Receiving this award is a great honor and an experience that I will always treasure,” she told us via email. “It has brought so many great opportunities for me, including the chance to speak in front of the STEM committee at the State Capitol. I’ve been inspired to work harder and do better.”

Assemblywoman Garcia was inspired as well — enough to honor an eighth-grader with an award typically reserved for adults.

“As part of Women’s History Month, it is such an honor to recognize these strong women, from my own backyard, who inspire, empower and improve their neighbors’ lives and the communities they live in,” she said in a news release.

As we mentioned, Liliana is enrolled in CHEP, OCDE’s award-winning independent study program offering free resources to parents who choose to educate their children at home. She’s also a long-time member of the Girl Scouts of America, president of her student council and a founding member of the “Girls in STEM” club at the Columbia Memorial Space Center, located in the city of Downey.

The club, we’re told, presents young women with new opportunities and experiences in the STEM fields (science, technology, engineering and math). According to her parents, Liliana has encouraged fellow members to take part in STEM explorations, field trips and service projects.

In her spare time, Liliana builds robots and participates in the Team America Rocketry Challenge, which is billed as the world’s largest student rocket contest — and the aerospace industry’s flagship program designed to encourage students to study STEM.

Not that there’s much spare time. Following her Woman of the Year recognition, she was invited by Assemblymember Garcia to attend a coding event in Sacramento, where she had the opportunity to program a Sphero robot.

“Lili is an exceptional and enthusiastic student who makes a lasting impression on people,” CHEP teacher Laura Terlizzi said. “Lili not only donates her time in volunteer work, but she donated her waist-long hair to Locks of Love for cancer patients.”

Added Terlizzi, “She is most deserving of this award.”