“Never give up” is Online Business Administration graduate’s new mantra
By the time he was in his fifties, Robert Hernandez had quit a lot of things in his life. He left high school at 17. Then after marrying young, he walked away from a long-term marriage. He even dropped out of his Business Administration program at SJVC the first time he was enrolled, several years ago.
But his childhood didn’t give him much of a chance for success. He was one of 10 children abandoned by their father and raised by their impoverished mother in Texas. “At 9-10 years old, they stuck me out on street corners to sell vegetables we got from neighbors, or across the border in Juarez,” he remembers. School attendance suffered.
By the time Robert got to high school, he was pretty far behind classmates and got involved with other misfits that brought him trouble with the law. “I was just a bad boy,” he admits.
In 1985 and in his mid-twenties, Robert caught a break when he went to work for a large machine shop that made aerospace fasteners. “I was a factory worker and made pieces of equipment that hold the plane together,” he says. He survived downsizing and relocations to other plants to finally hold a Manufacturing Manager position.
But qualifications have changed for supervisor roles, and experience combined with a college degree gives managers a stronger hold on their jobs.
He discussed his thoughts about going back to college with Louresel, his wife of five years. Louresel got a Bachelor’s degree in Finance while in the Philippines, and had recently added a BA in Project Management.
“When I saw her degree, it motivated me more,” says Robert. “I needed to finish something in my life. I wanted to do something for myself that I had never done.”
He also needed something to make him feel a sense of pride that his upbringing and life choices had denied him. “When you don’t graduate from high school and go through life, it’s embarrassing, you know. And, to be honest, it’s procrastinating, too; I worried I would get enrolled and not finish.”
Robert also worried about his age. “I’m thinking I’m in my fifties now…but the thing is, I knew the longer I waited, the older I would be when I finished.”
He enrolled in SJVC’s Online Business Administration program and began the difficult balance of life, work and school. “The degree of difficulty for Online is higher because of the independence,” Robert says, comparing it to his earlier Business Administration program on a ground campus. “I need to see it rather than have a person explain it to me (online).” Robert was provided with a math tutor and managed to maintain a 3.06 GPA.
Robert found his inner student. “Say you got an A and then got a C; you really want an A again,” he enthuses. “In my last class, I got a C with 79.9. Just one more tenth of a point and I would have gotten a B. That hurt.”
“Robert came back to SJVC after dropping from his program a few years ago,” says Summer Alvarez, Student Advisor. “He persevered through his courses and never let anything stop him once he returned. He completed his Business Administration certificate program and then continued to finish his Associate’s Degree. He never gave up.”
Giving up finally became a thing of the past for Robert.
Lourefel, along with Robert’s three adult children from his first marriage, encouraged and supported him all the way. “Louresel was very patient; she had just gone through it and I had supported her, too,” says Robert. “The kids are really happy and they’re proud of their dad; hey, I’m an old guy,” he laughs.
Robert might walk just a little taller at work, too. “I have to use Excel programs I learned at school and I use my critical thinking skills in meetings with other supervisors and upper management to recap the week and schedules,” says Robert, who supervises 29 employees and is responsible for all plant operations during his shift.
“I handle myself better, using what I learned in the Business Administration program,” he says. “My vocabulary, words you pick up reading and doing your homework; also, just my feeling of accomplishment. Confidence goes a long way.”
Getting an education and finally completing something for himself have had the greatest impact on a completely different area of Robert’s life.
Through his church, Robert has begun speaking to those who need to hear a clear voice of wisdom, direction and understanding. “When you’ve been in a situation, impoverished, behind bars and haven’t done anything in the past 30-something years, you have a lot to say to someone in their twenties or thirties,” says Robert. “If one person can see my life and get motivated to do something for themselves, then all of this would have been worth it.”
Robert puts the importance of getting his degree in perspective. “It’s not about the money; money has nothing to do with how you feel inside,” he says. But then admits, “I didn’t think it was a big deal to finish school, but really it did have a big impact on me.”
He sums it up perfectly: “I walk a little differently. I was a kid from the projects, in trouble. But I didn’t stop. I got my degree and I feel different. And, you know, people can see that.”
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