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Samantha Hernandez - Healthcare

Practice Coordinator – Medical Administrative Assistant
“I just pushed myself. I wanted my kids to learn to never give up.”

Samantha Saucedo Hernandez - she goes by Sam - wouldn’t be the first impressionable kid to get hooked on a tv series, but most don’t shape their futures around one.

“I started watching Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,” she remembers, “and decided, when I grow up I want to be a detective!”.  

That meant college, which fit neatly into her life plan. As a child of parents who emigrated from Mexico, she wanted to be the first generation of many to get a degree, “to do something with life.” She’d watched her parents struggle mightily as low-wage workers juggling two jobs each. She was going to do better.

“Then I got pregnant at 19 and all my aspirations and dreams had to go on hold for Alexia, my daughter”.

Sam wasn’t your average partying teen when she gave birth. She’d grown up fast. With her parents often away at work, Sam did the lion’s share of cooking, cleaning and  raising her younger brother. Being a mother was something she knew how to do. 

After Alexia, there was Leah, then Alyna. She was pregnant with her 4th child, Noah, when Sam decided it was time for college. “I just pushed myself,” she says. “I wanted my kids to learn to never give up”.

“The first year was basic, but second year I got to take criminal justice classes. I was SO excited. In my last class we got to lift fingerprints, like what we’d really do. I was so ready to graduate and get a job in the field.”

Job placement was something the school had promoted all along. It was a ruse.  Two weeks after Sam got her A.A.S. degree, the U.S. Department of Education shut the school down after finding evidence of fraud.  According to the Washington Post, the school’s parent company, “trapped students in predatory loans,” stranding Sam and her 4 children with a debt of $60K and no job.

Seven years would pass before Sam again considered a professional future. At the time, she was a gig worker with one of the rideshare companies and shared custody of her four kids.

“I was worried. I’d just turned 34 and I’m thinking, I need to settle in a job that’s stable. As a gig worker, you only get paid when you work so there were good days and bad days.”

As a single working mother, managing a complex life demanding myriad skills, Sam was one among a huge community of STARs - workers Skilled Through Alternative Routes rather than a bachelor’s degree. STARs develop valuable skills on the job, through community college, military service, or, like Sam, through self-discipline and drive.

The turning point in her life came with the morning mail. As a SNAP recipient, Sam got a letter promoting a celebrated, no-cost Medical Administrative Assistant job training program with JVS, available to California residents.  She applied, albeit cautiously,  was accepted, and began studies in medical administration. “I fell in love with it!”

JVS arranged for her internship at UCSF Health where Sam now works in the Audiology Department. Secure in the work world, she’s imagining the places this job might take her. Her eldest daughter, Alexia, doesn’t need to imagine: she wants to become a neurosurgeon. At 14, she’s already in a program that will help with her college funding. She clearly got the message her mother intended: Never give up.

Alternative Routes:

Top 3 Skills:

  • Multitasking
  • Medical Records
  • Customer Service