Pixel Tracker

Sunday, December 16 , 2018, 7:21 am | Fair 42º


Former Allan Hancock College Colleague to Walk 500 Miles for Scholarship in Memory of Fidel Herrera

For more than 20 years, Fidel Herrera taught English as a second language (ESL) classes at Allan Hancock College. He led the charge to develop the college’s ESL credit program. Herrera lost his decades-long battle with cancer on Jan. 21. Now, his longtime friend and former Hancock ESL instructor Michael McMahon will walk nearly 500 miles in Spain to honor Herrera and raise funds for a scholarship named after Herrera for a Hancock ESL student.

Longtime Allan Hancock College ESL instructor Fidel Herrera passed away in late January. His former colleague Michael McMahon will complete a 480-mile hike in Spain to fundraise for a scholarship in Herrera’s honor. Herrera’s wife, Eileen, gave McMahon a heart-shape rock to place along the pilgrimage route in her husband’s memory. (Allan Hancock College photo)

“Teaching ESL students was Fidel’s passion. He lived for it. Years ago, he told me he wanted to start a scholarship for ESL students,” said Eileen Herrera, Fidel’s wife of 52 years. “I am overwhelmed at Michael’s willingness to travel the lengths of the Earth to honor my husband. I am so happy his wish will be fulfilled and his legacy will live on.”

McMahon will head to Spain in May to complete the pilgrimage to the tomb of the apostle St. James. The 480-mile journey, which starts in France and ends in northwest Spain, is known as El Camino de Santiago de Compostela. The pilgrimage route was featured in The Way, a 2010 film written and directed by Emilio Estevez that starred both him and his father, Martin Sheen.

“Fidel was my mentor who helped me become an ESL teacher in the late-1990s,” McMahon said. “He had tremendous heart and love for his students. He is a legend in the community and impacted hundreds of lives. It will be an honor to walk a few hundred miles to honor a great man.”

McMahon and Herrera contacted the Allan Hancock College Foundation to start a scholarship in Herrera’s memory. McMahon wants to turn his pilgrimage into a fundraiser where community members and business pledge a dollar amount per mile that he completes or an overall amount.

McMahon has three months to train for El Camino de Santiago. He has started dieting and exercising in preparation.

“El Camino will allow me to do some things my doctor has been trying to get me to do for years,” McMahon said. “It will also serve a much bigger purpose where I will be able to think and reflect on my life, as well as honor my great friend.”

He and a friend plan to walk 10 to 12 miles each day during the journey, so he estimates it will take about six weeks to complete.

Herrera hopes she will be able to travel to Spain to walk the last leg with McMahon.

“It would be very special and emotional to join Michael at the end of his journey,” Herrera said. “Fidel had ancestors in Spain and visiting the country was always on our bucket list.”

El Camino de Santiago de Compostela dates back more than 1,000 years. One tradition still followed today is hikers leave a stone or personal item near a cross at the Cruz de Ferro. Herrera gave McMahon a heart-shaped stone her son found at Montaña de Oro to place near the cross. She wrote “Fidel” and wrote three symbols on the other side that hold special significance.

“I drew a heart, a zero and an infinity symbol because my husband and I always told each other, ‘I love you from zero to infinity and back again.’ The rock is also a perfect heart,” she said.

Herrera left behind his wife, four sons, seven grandchildren and seven great-grandchildren.

There are several ways people can donate to the Fidel Herrera Scholarship. They can stop by the Allan Hancock College Foundation office at 936 S. College Drive in Santa Maria, or mail cash, check or money order to P.O. Box 5170, Santa Maria, CA 93456-5170.

People may also donate directly online by clicking here. Click on the arrow under Make A Donation, select Fidel Herrera Scholarship and click Donate Now. For more information, contact the Allan Hancock College Foundation at 805.925.2004.

— Gina Herlihy is a public affairs coordinator for Allan Hancock College.


Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made using a credit card, Apple Pay or Google Pay, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments and a mailing address for checks.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Select your monthly membership
Or choose an annual membership

Payment Information

Membership Subscription

You are enrolling in . Thank you for joining the Hawks Club.

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover
One click only, please!

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.
You may cancel your membership at any time by sending an email to .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.