By ERIC A. HOWALD
Of the Keizertimes

Samuel Hernandez has had a busy senior year. So busy that his academic pursuits pulled him away from his chair as the youth councilor on the Keizer City Council halfway through his term.

Hernandez was a regular presence at meetings until a college writing course at Willamette University created a scheduling conflict, but sitting city councilors were all praise as they honored Hernandez for his time with the council.

“I’ve known Sam since sophomore year and he was a standout then,” said Councilor Laura Reid, who is also a teacher at McNary High School. “He takes advantage of all his opportunities in a way that helps him build new skills. You stand out among your peers in a way that brings them up.”

Hernandez reported that he will be attending Pomona College this fall on a full-ride scholarship. Pomona, one of the top-ranked liberal arts colleges in several reports, accepted less than 7 percent of its applicants for the class of 2022.

In addition to his studies at McNary, Hernandez recently graduated from Willamette Academy, a program that offers support, tutoring and mentoring to college-bound students. Hernandez is one of several valedictorians this year at McNary.

When asked what the most powerful lesson of his time with the council was, Hernandez didn’t hesitate with an answer.

“It was being able to apply what I learned in law and government classes,” he said. “One week, we were discussing the Americans with Disabilities Act in class and, that night at council, we talked about ADA-accessibility in Keizer buildings.”

Hernandez has his sights set on law school after finishing his undergraduate degree and hopes to become a U.S. senator.