Meet Justin Fernandez: UHMP student journalist and mental health advocate

By Aileen Delgado

Justin Fernandez says he got two big things out of the UHMP boot camp on community health storytelling for high school journalists: “a good opportunity to better immerse myself in the community’’ and “experience writing and reporting on things that really mattered.”

The senior at Coral Reef High School in Miami was able to interview experts such as Dr. Leana Wen, former Baltimore health commissioner, a health professor at George Washington University, and CNN analyst. That gave him valuable interviewing experience while also bringing him up to speed on crucial issues.  

“The biggest thing that stuck with me through these interviews,’’ he says, “is that mental health, especially community health, is something we all play a part in improving.” 

Working with five other students under the direction of mentor-editor Alan Gomez on the boot camp’s Miami team, Justin reported on COVID-19’s disproportionate impact on communities of color. 

After speaking with people directly affected by the pandemic, Justin says that he realized, “we need to be educated in the matter, and help raise awareness for others. We really need to listen to the stories that people are willing to say.” 

Justin hopes to hone his skills as a journalist and broaden his knowledge of mental health to pursue a career as a psychiatrist, “so I can better give back to the community that already gave so much to me.” 

“As I get older, I won’t forget the lessons I learned through my interviews,’’ he says. “I think I’ve grown into a more reflective and balanced person, being able to view social issues from more perspectives than just my own.”