“I am the youngest producer at Hulu. My colleagues have no idea how old I am!” said 23 year-old Katiuska Fernandez (“Kati” for short), a 2011 graduate of Cristo Rey Boston, and like her big sister Yarlennys Villaman (Class of 2010), well on her way professionally. Kati went to the west coast and found her calling in the entertainment industry. Yarlennys stayed home, taking the non-profit route as a case manager for Community Legal Services and Counseling Center of Cambridge. But both share a love of family (“We talk every night,” says Yarlennys), a degree from the College of the Holy Cross, and a deep appreciation for their Cristo Rey education.
“Cristo Rey Boston is a special place,” says Kati. “Here I was a freshman out in the workforce, learning to be a young adult. By the time I graduated, I felt there was nothing I couldn’t do."
“Freshman year is hard if you’re not organized,” said Yarlennys. “I learned to prioritize and manage my time through work and other activities. Cristo Rey teaches you that work is important.”
Yarlennys worked at three different companies while a Cristo Rey student: Ernst and Young, Draper Laboratories (where she won a customer service award), and the Cambridge Assessing Department. Kati had the benefit of four different work experiences at CRB, including Novartis and Newton Wellesley Hospital.
Both sisters were active in sports at Cristo Rey Boston. Yarlennys was the co-captain of the basketball team her junior and senior years, but she will be most remembered for her ability on the diamond, and we don’t mean softball.
“For one year I played on the boys’ baseball team! The boys made fun of me, but I tried out for the team and I made it. I like a challenge. You can’t tell me I can’t do something.”
And they both carried that attitude to Holy Cross.
“I did everything when it came to volunteering at Holy Cross,” recalled Yarlennys. “I started a Spanish Choir, worked for an agency, and initiated a youth program. After Holy Cross, she went to the Dominican Republic to volunteer in a youth program called Lazos Al Futuro, which translates into 'Ties for the Future.'
Kati got involved in a mentoring program for students of color at Holy Cross, and her own mentor helped her arrange interviews with Universal Studios, YouTube, Warner Brothers and the NFL Network, among others. Kati got the job at the NFL Network, and that led to her current role at Hulu, where her first big campaign was helping to market Game of Thrones.
Just 26 years old, Yarlennys currently sits on two boards, and also had a two-year term on the Holy Cross alumni board for which she was selected by the college’s president, Father Philip Boroughs, S.J. She is now the president of the Holy Cross Club of Boston, as well. “I think of myself as a community builder," said Yarlennys. “I love when I see a need that I might be able to solve. I’m not the richest person but I feel blessed to have had opportunities and I want to make a difference.”
Today, the sisters have pledged to help current Cristo Rey Boston students in any way they can, because they know first-hand what it means to be helped.
“My advice to students is to take every opportunity and use it to your advantage,” says Yarlennys. “Ask for help, engage. Education really shapes you to be a leader. You have to utilize the resources the school gives you. Cristo Rey Boston is a special school. You can begin to carve out a career right there in high school. It’s challenging, but little by little...you learn.”