Vance Virtual Village Academy Administrative Assistant and Bookkeeper Laurie Hernandez is the recipient of the school’s Heroes Spotlight Award for the hard work and dedication she has displayed since accepting the position in August 2020.

While the past year has been trying for Hernandez and everyone at Vance Virtual Village Academy, she loves her job and is always eager to meet new people and help the newest generation of students.

“The highlight of my career has been working with the kids and their families,” Hernandez said. “I have five kids of my own so they’ve always had a special place in my heart. At the end of the day, I love building relationships and I’m just here to my job the best my can.”

Hernandez started working with Vance County Schools in Nov. 2010 as a teacher and library assistant for Pinkston Street Elementary School. She held those positions until August 2014, when she was asked to transition over to a role as a receptionist in the front office.

Since Hernandez was one of a few staff members who could speak English and Spanish fluently, serving as Pinkston Street’s receptionist enabled her to assist Hispanic families who had questions about their children and the school much more easily.

With the COVID-19 pandemic still being a major issue at the time of Hernandez’ hiring at Vance Virtual, she said that the adjustment to remote learning has had its positives and negatives. But everyone at the school has worked hard to ensure that students are in the best learning environment possible, she said.

“The first year has been interesting to say the least,” Hernandez said. “We really didn’t have a roadmap for this and we’ve kind of been winging it. We built things from the ground up and we learn new things every day. If something doesn’t work, we try something else.”

Now that Hernandez’ first year at Vance Virtual is coming to a close, she is turning her attention towards preparing for graduation, which is something she never had to do during her time at Pinkston Street.

Helping order cap and gowns and organizing senior-picture dates have given Hernandez some sense of normalcy during the pandemic-stricken year. She said she is looking forward to watching her first senior class start the next chapter in their lives.

She added that she believes the upcoming 2021-22 school year will be slightly less strenuous now that she has had a year to adjust, but she intends to continue her dedication to helping others regardless of the obstacles in her way.

“I’m always up for challenges and new adventures,” Hernandez said. “Change can be hard sometimes, but I’ve learned through this pandemic that you have to make the best of it. If you put your mind to it, you can get through anything.”