Palmer Trinity senior Kristen Fernandez works hard to raise money for cancer research. She does it because her family had to deal with her little sister’s bout with cancer.
“She was three years old and I was around seven,” Fernandez says. “My parents are in the medical profession and one day my sister was playing on the slide and she kept telling my mom she really hurt. Mom looked at her and she felt the tumor. My sister went through surgery and chemotherapy and she has been in remission now for 10 years, and everything is okay.”
Fernandez participates in the annual Reason to Run: Cancer Free Kids Walk at the Deering Estate. She recruited her volleyball teammates to join her.
“My volleyball team goes to the Run every year” she says. “We advertise at Palmer and we make shirts every year.”
Another Palmer tradition is the annual mission trip. Fernandez has been on two mission trips.
“We go to Nicaragua and build a home for a family,” she says. “The idea is to relocate families from the Nicaragua dump to a more stable environment. Now, the dump is almost gone. While we are in the country, we also visit area orphanages.”
In the last couple of years, Fernandez says Palmer students have been on missions to Haiti and Nicaragua. She says that she enjoys the missions.
“When you are there you get to play with the children,” Fernandez says. “You see how happy they are, yet how little they have. When you see their faces when you move them into the house, it is so worth it, even with all the time and hours you put into it.”
Her experiences on the trip have convinced her that she would like to become a doctor and work with kids, possibly in Third World countries. She would follow in her parent’s footsteps – her dad is an orthopedic surgeon and her mother is a nurse.
To be certain that she wants to be a doctor, Fernandez shadowed several physicians last summer at Baptist Hospital and Miami Children’s Hospital.
“I shadowed a pediatric oncologist, a pediatric neurosurgeon, an orthopedic surgeon and a facial plastic surgeon,” she says.
Fernandez says she thought she would not enjoy following the pediatric oncologist because of her experience with her sister’s fight with cancer. But, surprisingly, she became keenly interested in the work.
At Palmer Trinity, Fernandez is also a member of the Autism Club, an organization that raises money to fund autism causes.
“We have a flag football game to raise money,” she says. “The club president’s brother has autism. He’s very dedicated and he works closely with an autism organization that he sends the money to.”
Fernandez is also a member of Best Buddies.
“We help to create opportunity for people with intellectual and development disabilities,” she says. “We have several events every year to raise funds and raise awareness.” She says that when the Buddies come to an event, the club members entertain them and have planned creative activities for them to enjoy.
Fernandez has been playing volleyball since she was in the sixth grade and has been on the varsity team since she was in the 10th grade. The team made it to the regional semifinals this year. Also, she says that she found time for another sport, so she joined the soccer team this year. She is also participating with the track team.
Outside of school, in her sophomore year Fernandez attended the HOBY Leadership Conference at Lynn University in Boca Raton.
“We participated in leadership training, service learning and motivation building experiences,” she says. “It taught me a lot about how to be a leader; not only for myself, but to be a leader for those around me.”
By Linda Rodriguez Bernfeld