This article was written by Adoracion Hernandez. Ms. Hernandez is the 2018 David A. Garfinkel Essay Scholarship Second Prize winner. Born in Spain, she came to New York in 2001, when she became interested in early childhood education. She earned her Child Development Associate Credential and Associate Degree in Education from Bronx Community College. She is currently enrolled in Hunter College, working toward her Bachelor’s Degree in Special and Regular Early Childhood Education.
Photo: Adoracion Hernandez and Hon. Dianne T. Renwick at the Garfinkel Essay Scholarship Award Ceremony.
On May 21, 2018, I had the honor to receive the David A. Garfinkel Essay Scholarship at one of the hidden gems in New York City: Appellate Division, First Judicial Department. A courthouse sited in the heart of Manhattan where one can admire the impressive furniture, woodwork, artistic murals, and wonderful stained-glass artworks. The Historical Society of the New York Courts worked tirelessly to offer this generous scholarship to students studying in CUNY Community Colleges. I had just earned my Associate Degree in Applied Science at Bronx Community College when I discovered the Garfinkel Scholarship. Once I realized that I was eligible to enter, I felt compelled to start working on the essay immediately because of the interesting topic they brought to my attention: Stolen Art: from the Holocaust to the Present. I have always loved History. I was lucky to be raised in a household in which my mother, little by little, had treasured literature books of diverse cultures, dictionaries, and several encyclopedias. I remember an Encyclopedia of World’s History — bought one chapter each week until all the volumes were complete — which I used to read for fun on vacation days.
I spent Spring Break this year working with great hopes on the essay I planned to submit. Thankfully, my children understood the importance of my work and didn’t complain about spending their vacation at home. During my research, I learned in dismay that most of the stolen art hoarded by the Nazis during the rise of their monstrous regime was almost never returned to its rightful owners. In fact, the few families who successfully reclaimed their stolen works-of-art had to defy a powerful established machinery that protected individuals and local or national governments in possession of these creations by ignoring — or preferring to ignore — their outrageous origins. These dishonest persons and institutions were the real beneficiaries of the chaotic situation in the aftermath of World War II. Advancing in my research, I realized the crucial role played by the U.S. Courts — especially the New York Courts — to bring justice to the heirs of Holocaust victims. After discarding several themes and titles for my essay, finally I found the right one: “Inherited Grievances”. My focus was the unjust treatment that Holocaust victims and their families received after the defeat of the Third Reich. Fortunately, after many years of fighting to recover their lost property, some of these families finally witnessed their possessions returned to them. This restoration brought them — and all of humanity — peace of mind, knowing that justice had prevailed. My essay was ready to be submitted, however, I sought for the knowledgeable opinion of my professor: Beth Tremallo, who had been my mentor since I started my quest for ways to continue my education. She offered me wise insights, an accurate vision of what was necessary for a better result, and the encouragement I needed to revise my work until it was finally ready to submit.
When I was finally ready to submit my essay, I received a wonderful surprise: in order to ensure fairness, the judges evaluate each submission with reference to a number in lieu of any personal information. With this in mind, I encourage every Community College student to apply for the David A. Garfinkel Scholarship, being aware that their arduous work will be valued by the quality of the essay they provide, without any bias. The day of the Awards Ceremony was a memorable one for me and my family. It was delightful to meet the wonderful members of the Historical Society of the New York Courts who work relentlessly so this event shines at the heart of Manhattan. Their undeniable commitment to bring the importance of the Justice System to the attention of the general public deserves to be widely recognized.
The award ceremony was beautifully conducted by the Hon. Dianne Renwick, who was introducing each lecturer with knowledgeable statements. It was wonderful to absorb the guiding experiences and insights of such impressive professionals. I will always keep in my heart the inspirational words and attitude of the Hon. Edwina Mendelson. She overcame real world difficulties to become a Judge and excel in her judicial career. She is an exemplar model to follow whose extraordinary closeness increases my admiration for her. I will never forget the magnificent work that Prof. Christine Mooney, whose statement I enjoyed greatly, has been doing at one of the CUNY Colleges: Queensborough Community College. She has been encouraging her students to learn the most about the U.S. legal system and to participate in it, as a way to better understand it. I would like to acknowledge the valuable and silent work that members of the organization perform every day such as Mr. Daniel Sierra, who read numerous essay submissions, and Ms. Allison Morey, who has become my pen pal confidant since the day of the ceremony.
I would like to thank all the members of the Historical Society of the New York Courts for their efforts to keep history alive, especially the indispensable legacy of the New York Courts. Their efforts in spreading the awareness of the legal system throughout the schools and Colleges of New York will bloom into a more knowledgably society. Future generations will benefit from the current activities and events that are being organized by this noble organization. My most heartfelt gratitude to them and to the Garfinkel family, whose generous contribution to the scholarship certainly transformed my life. I emerged that day as a more confident person, who has since then been able to see light at the end of the tunnel. I realized at that moment that I am capable to overcome any challenge with hard-work, perseverance, and dedication. To be a finalist in the Garfinkel Scholarship has shaped my life and it is helping me to redesign my future. Thank you!
Adoracion Hernandez: In Her Own Words
I was born in August of 1964 in an agricultural town near the Mediterranean Sea in Spain: “Villarreal” (or King’s Village), within a modest, hard-working and loving family. I started studying to become a Classical Linguist, but unfortunately economic problems in my family prevented me to finish my career. I started working to help my family to overcome those difficult times. Later on, I tried to continue my studies at the National University of Distance Education to become an English Linguist. However life had other plans for me. I suffered a terrible car accident and all my dreams shuttered that day.
When I came to New York in 2001 I started volunteering as a teacher assistant in my son’s first grade bilingual classroom. At that time I fell in love with early childhood education. Since then, and thanks to the free programs that CUNY offers to students coming from every background, I have been studying to become a teacher. My quest began at Bronx Community College in the Teacher Assistant CareerPath Program in 2013. I earned the Child Development Associate (CDA) Credential in 2014, and immediately I started working at The Early Childhood Center at BCC. I was lucky to be accepted into the ASAP program there, where I just finished my Associate Degree in Education. I am going to start my bachelor’s degree in Special and Regular Early Childhood Education next semester at Hunter College.