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Apple Ambassador is a high-achieving trailblazer

Jackie Hernandez, the Apple Ambassador for the 2023 N.C. Apple Festival, speaks during the opening ceremony of the Apple Festival. Jackie Hernandez, the Apple Ambassador for the 2023 N.C. Apple Festival, speaks during the opening ceremony of the Apple Festival.

The N.C. Apple Festival made history this year when it named Jackie Hernandez the festival’s Apple Ambassador. The rising senior at Hendersonville High School, is the first apple ambassador in the festival’s 77-year history to come from a Hispanic family.

“It’s an honor,” Hernandez said of being named Apple Ambassador and of being the first Latina to represent and promote the festival. “The idea that there hasn’t been another, that I’m the first, is insane to me. It’s a step in the right direction.”
The Apple Ambassador program, which provides two scholarships each year, is open to all rising seniors in Henderson County. Hernandez will attend all four days of the 2023 festival and will also represent the festival at the N.C. Mountain State Fair as well as other events across the state throughout her senior year.
Hernandez said she learned on the day of her interview with festival officials that she would be this year’s ambassador.
“It was exciting,” she said, adding that all the candidates for ambassador were incredible people. “It’s such an honor. I’m so excited to represent Henderson County in that way. I love the Apple Festival.”
A student at Pat’s School of Dance, Hernandez has enjoyed performing with the school’s dance team during the Apple Festival each year.


First-generation American

The 17-year-old was born in New Jersey but moved to Henderson County shortly after her first birthday. She is the first generation in her family to be born in America.
Her parents, Josefina N. Ades of Hendersonville and Juan Hernandez of New Jersey, came to America from El Salvador 20 to 30 years ago.
“They wanted a better life,” Hernandez said. “They came from nothing. They inspire me every day to push. I want to make them proud.”
The daughter certainly succeeded on that count. At HHS, she’s president of the student body, the Keywanettes and the Spanish Club and vice president of the National Honor Society chapter.
Hernandez described her mother as very grateful and beyond thrilled when she learned her daughter would be the Apple Ambassador for the festival.
The festival received 20 applications for this year’s Apple Ambassador scholarship, organizers said.
Hernandez will be awarded a $2,000 college scholarship upon graduation from high school in June 2024.
She said she is still deciding where she wants to attend college and what degree she might want to pursue. Dance and theater are two areas she loves and might lead to a career in the performing arts, she said.
Hernandez said she intends to live in Hendersonville once she completes her education and hopes to help others in the community.
She has worked for the last couple of years as a life guard in the summer at pools in the area and said she enjoys meeting young children and playing with them around the pool.
The runner-up for Apple Ambassador this year is Destiny Simotics, a senior at East Henderson High School. Simotics is the granddaughter of Mike and Laura O’Connor. She will be awarded a $1,000 college scholarship.
The scholarship is named in honor of Evelyn Lutz Hill, who served as the secretary of the North Carolina Apple Growers for many years and was serving as the festival’s president when she passed away in 2004.