Peer Spotlight: Manny Hernandez

Could you tell us a little about yourself?

I am from the inner-city of Lawrence. Growing up in my community was a beautiful experience, but it was also very challenging. My mom is an immigrant from the Dominican Republic and I am a first generation American. Coming to the States was what she dreamed of, to be able to provide for me and her family. Over the years we’ve overcome some extraordinary challenges and met a great number of people who were willing to give us a hand.

What made you want to work as a Peer Coordinator for The NAN Project?

During my first year of Community College, I met an amazing mentor. He taught me so much about the struggles my community and I were facing and why it’s so important to overcome them. I was inspired to learn more about social services and community work. I was determined to help others build connections and maybe become a mentor myself someday. 

What strategies do you use to deal with your own mental health?

When people learn about my mental illness I often get “nah, you don’t got that.” As if I am supposed to look a certain way if I say I struggle with psychosis. I gladly, reply back and say “well, what do you know?” Mental health is something that can affect anyone. Sometimes the struggles we go through push us to unhealthy coping mechanisms and not everyone you meet is willing to talk about these things. The truth is, if we were more accepting and more open as a community, we could break down many barriers for individuals in need of service.

What is an example of something you did to help a student or a friend?

Whenever I talk to friends about their challenges, I come from a mindset of curiosity. I simply want to learn. Most people have the answers they’re looking for somewhere inside of themselves. By having a conversation with them and being open, vulnerable and non-judgemental, much of what they’re searching for can come to the surface.

What hopes do you have for your own future?

I think someday I’d like to write a book on my experiences. I believe that it could truly help someone who is struggling with psychosis understand that there are other people out there who’ve been through it too.

What commitments do you have for the year?

This year I am focusing on one thing. Finding healthy ways to cope and be a better resource to those who may be searching for an answer.

What do you like to do in your free time?
Some of my interests include sports. I love playing basketball with friends I’ve made through work. It has been a great way to meet people and get to know the Greater Boston community better. Some of the folks I play with also have jobs in which they’re giving back. Knowing that I am surrounded by individuals who care about the kids is truly rewarding. Hopefully in the future we can collaborate on projects together and do some awesome things.

What advice do you have for our Peer Mentors?

One thing I always say to myself is “We gon’ be alright.” Kendrick Lamar couldn’t have said it any better. We have seen some amazing obstacles in our lives. But, as long as we stick together as a community we gon’ do just that.

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