Richmond Promise Scholar spotlight: Jesse Hernandez

Jesse Hernandez

Meet the Richmond Promise Scholars, a growing movement of hundreds of students from Richmond and North Richmond who are currently attending over 100 colleges and universities. They are beneficiaries of the Richmond Promise college preparedness, scholarship and guidance program, which is part of a $35 million, 10-year investment by Chevron to help make college more affordable and attainable for local students. For some students, the Promise wasn’t just an opportunity to achieve their college dream, but also to help younger generations do the same. In this series, we feature interns from the Summer Associates program talking about their experience.

Jesse Hernandez is a Richmond native, a graduate of Richmond High School and was active  on campus through his participation in athletics and college access programs such as College is Real. Hernandez interned at the Richmond Police Department through the Law Academy. Hernandez is a first-generation college student at Lewis & Clark College, where he currently is receiving a full-ride scholarship. On his spare time, Hernandez loves to bike and play basketball. He aspires to one day become a teacher in his own community.

Q: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? Expand on hardships/motivational factors that influence you to this day.

I am a motivated, dedicated, first-generation scholar studying both History and Asian Studies. I have a passion for educational reform through policy and advocacy work, seeking opportunities directly linked to education and empowerment of youth. My drive to focus on these specific topic areas stems from a passion for preserving people’s stories and understanding various perspectives, backgrounds, and opinions. My passions also stem from my rough and challenging upbringing. Having been neglected from my parents who’ve unfortunately fallen victim of drug addictions, I know what it’s like to feel alone, hopeless, and unmotivated. Aside from a lack of parental figures growing up, I’ve also lost many close family members at a young age. At one point, I was at the brink of completely giving up. When my grandmother adopted me, my life changed for the better. My grandmother provided things my parents could not, things such as new clothes, delicious food, love, and a best friend. I owe my grandmother everything, she deserves the world and much more. My grandmother is the reason why I do what I do, she was the reason I graduated high school, received a full-ride scholarship, and the reason why I want to give back. My mission is to spread the love, no matter your race, identify, beliefs, I got you on mamas.” 

Q: How has the Richmond Promise played a role in your education?

The Richmond Promise means so much more to me than a source of money. The Richmond Promise has provided me with the opportunity to attend a four-year university, something that isn’t very common for a person from Richmond. I personally found the support and love I receive from the Richmond Promise way more valuable than the scholarship check; especially the 1-on-1 appointments and the College and Success. The Richmond Promise is establishing a college culture in a community which has been underrepresented for too long. The opportunities the Richmond Promise brings to the city of Richmond isn’t something that we should take for granted but something we should cherish and build upon.

Q: What do you want to contribute to Richmond or the world?

My dream is to become a history teacher and teach at my former high school, Richmond High. Reason being that I have an ongoing bet with Mr. Hastings, history and economics teacher at RHS, that he will pay me $10 if I become a teacher and teach at RHS. You can best believe that I’m going to get my $10. But in all seriousness, I have a strong passion for education due to all of the wonderful opportunities it has provided. I hope to dedicate my life to the field of education, improving on Richmond K-12 system, motivating kids to be better than they were the day before, and helping kids develop their own ideas and beliefs. Education is everything nowadays and I want to make sure that every kid not only has access to education but are also well prepared to do well in school.

Q: Can you tell us about your current college experience?

College has been an emotional rollercoaster. Like everything in life, it has its ups and downs. During my first semester at Lewis & Clark College, I found it hard to establish a productive studying routine and it showed when grades came around. I finished my first semester with a 1.8 GPA. having failed and dropped a class I was extremely disappointed in myself. So disappointed that I ate a whole tub of Blue Bunny chocolate ice cream all by myself. After eating the whole tub of ice cream I realized that I had to redeem myself the following semester so I did everything in my power to ensure I excelled the following semester. I toned down on the video games, visited office hours more frequently, and made the library my second home. I had to give the second semester my all because I have everything to lose, it’s either college or nothing. After it was all said and done, I finished the second semester with a 3.0. Despite making a huge comeback, there’s still much room for improvement. Having gone through the process of college I expect to do better, at this point the only one who’s stopping me from succeeding is myself.”

Q: What are you looking forward after receiving your bachelor’s/transferring?

After receiving a bachelor’s from Lewis & Clark College, I intend on enrolling in a teaching program where I can work towards both a Master’s degree and a teaching credential. Then after it’s all said and done, I intend to shadow a teacher I respect for about a year so I can learn the ropes of being a great teacher. Then after that, all I have to do is secure a teaching job at Richmond High School and get to work. My goal is to contribute to the Richmond Promise mission, which is establishing a college culture in the city of Richmond. You’ll see me around often, doing what I do.”