Paola Lopez-Hernandez is actively involved in efforts to foster environmental stewardship among her peers. From 2016 to 2018, she served as President of the Barry Green Team, a student club whose primary purpose is to support the improvement of environmental practices. A Barry Service Corps Fellow with the Center for Community Service Initiatives, Paola assists in coordinating civic engagement projects in partnership with local non-profit organizations. At Gang Alternative, she prepared lesson plans to guide the teaching of life skills and to "build character that lasts." She also facilitated interactive activities to encourage positive relationships among the inner-city youth served by that organization. Currently, Paola coordinates a project to combat food waste on campus and increase food access in the community. The project prevents the disposal of excess food from Barry's main campus dining hall, recovering it for donation to the Miami Rescue Mission. Paola and other students deliver the food and sometimes serve community members experiencing food insecurity. Additionally, Paola is an ardent advocate for the "Fair Food Program" organized by the Coalition of Immokalee Workers. She engages in public action with other students to draw attention to the need for fair wages and better working conditions for farmworkers.
My passion to contribute to the development of equitable communities began with my experiences living in Venezuela, watching impotently the deterioration of the native ecology and observing extreme wealth disparities. In my first year at Barry University, I knew I wanted to create change, and so I became president of the student-run Ecological Sustainability Club. Through research, I discovered that in the United States, thousands of pounds of untouched food fill garbage dumps each day. I was deeply concerned about the environmental impact as well as the rampant social issues of homelessness, food waste, and food insecurity. In my second year at the university, I became a Barry Service Corps Fellow. I worked with Gang Alternative to educate youth living in one of the largest food deserts to increase access to nutritious food on a budget. That same year, I helped pioneer a system that diverts perfectly fresh overproduced food from the campus dining hall to Miami Rescue Mission, a hunger-fighting community agency. In my third year at Barry, I oversee and facilitate the Food Recovery Network chapter as a civic engagement project. My work supporting my community has propelled me to work harder through partnerships to promote systemic change.