Maria Hernandez: Grow Your Branches

April 18 - On The Dot
It’s a great day to be a woman! Melinda Garvey here as your voice, with the mission to give women everywhere a place to be heard and tell their stories. We’d love to hear from you!

FIRST THOUGHT: Loving Yourself and Others

If your initial reaction to the idea of starting a children’s nonprofit is to exclaim, “I could never do that!” you’re not alone. I used to think that it was only other women who could do awesome things like that. My self-talk went something like this: Those women are a whole lot more inspired or driventhan I am. Then I started hearing stories, stories of women not so different than you and me who don’t just sit on something they care deeply about. They go after it. There’s a lot to learn about one’s self from observing—and admiring—their work.


Sometimes you need to know what, or, in this case, who doesn’t work for you before you can find who does. Did you know women kiss an average of 15 people before they meet “the one”? This news comes from the online dating gods over at EHarmony. They arrived at the number after surveying some 2,000 people. Also noted in the findings: Women and men are both likely to fall in love twice and live with one partner before finding their better half. Sounds like a rallying, let’s-try-again spirit is the hurdle women need to jump before they can walk down the aisle.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Maria Hernandez, executive director of VELA

Now, back to starting a nonprofit. How do women do it? A good first bet is to have a little direction. Sometimes, finding that direction is a process, kind of like the whole having-to-kiss-15-people-before-you-find-your-prince thing. Or perhaps you’re like Maria Hernandez and you knew you wanted to be a speech language pathologist by the age of 12. On the quest to pursue her childhood dream, Hernandez got her master’s degree in communication sciences and disorders. She spent time working with the immigrant population, offering speech language therapy to children in home settings. That’s where she witnessed the challenges immigrant families faced, from cultural differences to language barriers, and every nook and cranny in between. Noticing that parents were often left out of the speech language therapy equation, Hernandez decided to make her services more effective by looping them into her sessions. To better serve this need, Hernandez started the nonprofit Growing Roots in 2010, now known as VELA, an acronym for vibrant, empowered, limitless and able, and the Spanish word for “candle,” a symbol of light. Her goal with the program is to empower families of special-needs children by offering informational programs on special education in schools, family fun days, monthly support groups and case-management services. Hernandez amps up her awesomeness factor by providing all services in both English and Spanish, free of charge. So far, VELA has helped more than 400 families. If nothing else, Hernandez is a good reminder to tune back in to our 12-year-old selves. Clearly, dreams can become reality.


Maybe your dream is to start a nonprofit. Maybe it’s not. Whether you’re a precocious 12-year-old or a spritely 72-year-old, you’ve still got time to leave your mark. Let’s leave on a positive note from best-selling author Sonia Ricotti: “Surrender to what is. Let go of what was. Have faith in what will be.”

That’s all for now. Be sure to share this so more women can have a voice! Thanks for getting ready with us. To learn more about our conversation, check us out at and talk to us @OnTheDotWoman on Twitter and Instagram. We’d love to hear your voice.

Get On The Dot in your inbox each day.
Copyright 2018 © On The Dot Woman - All Rights Reserved Privacy Policy