Francis Hernández Montás (’19, Dominican Republic) grew up nurturing his dream of becoming a business manager or astronaut. As a teenager attending a polytechnical high school, his ambitions evolved from spreadsheets and stars to biology. FélixRondón (’93) and Cristino Gómez (’08) – two of his teachers, both EARTH alumni from the Dominican Republic – urged Francis to apply to the University, become an agronomist, and professionalize his love of biology. Francis recalls, “I was very impressed by EARTH’s educational model and social focus”.
During the commencement ceremony, Francis was selected as the recipient of the 2019 Premio EARTH – the highest award the University confers, which recognizes academic excellence, world-class leadership and full embodiment of EARTH’s mission. “I was never working for recognition, but it’s nice that it happened. I know I’m doing something right, and I must continue doing it,” he says. “For me, this award represents my efforts, sacrifices, dedication and commitment to the EARTH community. It also represents solidarity and empathy, as well as the enthusiasm I have always had to help in any way necessary.”
Faculty members use the Premio EARTH to distinguish one student who fully exhibits:
Since the start of his college career, Francis has stood out for embodying each of these parameters. He participated in countless extracurricular activities like volunteering as a financial coordinator to help ensure the success of the 2019 EARTH Multicultural Fair – a beloved community staple that raises funds to bring parents to the Graduation Ceremony. He was actively involved with the Office of Student Affairs and he tutored his classmates in various subjects. In the meantime, Francis was able to be efficient with his time and maintain his excellent grades – even though he sometimes felt that things were getting out of control and that he was involved in too much.
“There were a number of virtues that got Francis recognized each year as a distinguished student and that, at the end of his university career, made him the winner of the Premio EARTH,” Professor Gregory Guevara explains. “He possesses a framework of values that he has applied in different areas. In addition to being a brilliant man, Francis has demonstrated the values we expect to see from an EARTH student and graduate. He stood out for his leadership, which is one of his greatest strengths.”
On December 4, Francis served as master of ceremonies during the student awards night – Premio Heliconia – alongside his co-emcee Jennifer Torres (’19, Costa Rica). The gymnasium of the Guácimo Campus was alive with bright colors, exciting music, energizing dances and vibrant cultures from many of the countries that give shape to the EARTH community. The duo prepared to present the night’s big award, which recognizes the fourth-year student who exemplifies EARTH through ethical leadership, technological savvy, commitment to community development, and passion for the environment. Each year, the entire EARTH community of students, faculty and staff has the opportunity to nominate students.
On stage, Francis invited EARTH President Arturo Condo and Director of Student Affairs Irmino Perera to announce the most-nominated student, who passed through a selection process to earn the award. “We have a tie,” said Condo, who proceeded to name both Nelson Guardado (’19, El Salvador) and Francis. “It was a surprise to me,” Francis says. “I was the emcee, and when I was on stage with Arturo and Irmino, ready to announce the winner, I saw them look at me. I didn’t know how to react when they said my name. I’m very flattered.”
Just by listening to him speak, it is easy to see that this 21-year-old Dominican fits the profile of an exemplary EARTH alum. He knows he wants to continue developing himself academically and professionally in order to make a positive impact on his community. In the future, he sees himself harnessing his EARTH education to become a social entrepreneur.
“When you leave EARTH, you see things differently. EARTH transformed me,” Francis says. “When you return to your home country, you feel a shock because you come with an awakened conscience. You feel the slightest thing that happens, you see the need, and you think about how to generate positive changes to make everything better socially and environmentally. The education that EARTH gave me was holistic and comprehensive. I can no longer see the world as I saw it before. I can no longer be blind to local or global issues.”