Student of the week: Juan Manuel Hernandez

Juan Manuel Hernandez talks about his motivation to return to school despite not being a full-time student since he graduated high school in 1978.  

Hernandez, 58, is a veteran and former aviation mechanic from 1978 until 1995. Once he retired from the military, Hernandez said he began working at the Evins Juvenile Detention Center in Edinburg where he worked for the next 16 years.

“I don’t let it bother me,” Hernandez says of the age gap between him and other students. “I am here to get a better education and to get a better job. South Texas College is here to help and guide me through.”

Raised in Mission, Hernandez said he graduated from Mission High School in 1978 and quickly joined the military right after.

“I did 16 years in the military and 16 years at Evins,” he said. “Once I left Evins, I tried to find another job hopefully in management but it seemed that every place I went to was asking for a Bachelor’s degree. I mean, I had the experience but I didn’t have the degree. That’s why I decided to come to STC.”

Hernandez said he began at STC during summer 2016. He finished his Associate degree in Business Administration Management during summer 2017, and is now studying for his Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Leadership.

During that time, Hernandez said he began to volunteer his time assisting other veterans acclimate to school at the Veterans Center at STC.

“We do the best we can at the veterans office to help them feel more at home, and help them make a smooth transition from the military back to civilian life,” Hernandez said. “If any veteran is struggling, I would like to let them know that we help each other. There is no need to fear.”

Once he graduates, Hernandez says he would like to enter Child Protective Services to become a daycare inspector.

“With all of the recent things that have been happening in daycares, maybe there are some inspectors who aren’t as qualified,” Hernandez said. “Even when I was doing my aviation training, I was always more geared towards the safety aspect. I feel that safety aspect should be of major concern with daycares as well.”

Top three accomplishments:

“To me, becoming a Staff Sergeant in the military was a huge accomplishment, and also brought a higher level of responsibility.”

“My biggest accomplishment however is everyday seeing those veterans who are coming in to school. Sometimes they may not be so sure of their benefits, and I like helping explain their benefits to help get them enrolled. That makes me feel good.”

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