How This Green Dot Alum’s Full Ride Scholarship was Built on Hard Work & Determination

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Devin Hernandez has always known that his life’s path would lead to college, but he never imagined this journey would take him 2,600-plus miles away from home. In his final year of high school, the Ánimo Jackie Robinson Charter High School alumnus received a four-year full-tuition scholarship from the Posse Foundation to attend Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, Hernandez couldn’t even visit the Dickinson campus and yet he knew it was where he needed to be. “I just knew I don't know how to explain it, but I just knew it was for me,” said Hernandez.

Moving to Pennsylvania has been a life changing experience for the Los Angeles native. “Coming from my community in South Central, I’m familiar with seeing people who look like me, while here, you get everything and that's what I enjoy about my college,” said Hernandez. Though he misses his home and his mother’s cooking, the school community and the bonds he’s formed at Dickinson have helped him thrive. “I have a lot of love here. I feel like having that support system here in college; helps you get through every day and in every class.”

Paving the Way

As a first-generation college student, Hernandez knew it was critical that he seek every opportunity that would equip him with the knowledge, tools, and resources necessary to overcome the numerous obstacles first-generation college students face. At Ánimo Jackie Robinson, he joined the Ballmer Scholars, an intensive counseling support program that provides students and families with targeted and personalized college advising. “The whole college application was foreign to me. I didn't know what to do. I didn't know how to fill out a FAFSA. My parents couldn’t help me in anything college related,” reflected Hernandez. The Ballmer Scholars program is one of the many ways Green Dot removes barriers that can inhibit student success. It’s not uncommon for our students and families to believe that a college education, especially one from a private university, may be out of reach. It’s why our advisors spend countless hours working with families on the FAFSA, and the CSS Profile — a separate aid application required for financial aid at private colleges. “That’s what I loved about the Ballmer Scholars Program because they were always there for me.”

Dedication is Key

Hernandez’s road to college has been full of hard work and sacrifices, but even in the most challenging times giving up was never an option. During high school, Hernandez held a part-time job, played on Ánimo Jackie Robinson’s soccer team, and was enrolled in advanced placement courses while also taking community college courses. “I feel like that's the beauty of putting yourself in uncomfortable positions. You just make it happen and make the best of what you can,” reflected Hernandez. Few were surprised when Hernandez was named class of 2020 Valedictorian. Even now, the honor is one of his proudest moments. “For me, it's like my way of recognizing my own work. All the hours I put in and every struggle I went through. And giving back to my mom and my family for all the support they gave me and what they have sacrificed, just for me.”

For Hernandez, Ánimo Jackie Robinson is like a second home. “Every teacher wants you to succeed, and the counselors are also great people like Mr. Lovo. He was my go-to guy for everything and anything. For example, he helped me apply for my first job at McDonald’s. And small things like that, really go a long way,” said Hernandez. Xavier Lovo, Ánimo Jackie Robinson counselor and cross-country coach, saw Hernandez grow from a reserved freshman into a capable leader. “Devin is very motivated and self-sufficient. So, my support was always more like motivating him, letting him know that these are the possibilities he has, and understanding him as a person,” said Lovo. Across the network, our educators and counselors work tirelessly to help students build self-efficacy and see themselves at college. “From the very beginning, we start exposing the students to different campuses. In ninth grade advisory, we have lessons that talk about the UC system, the Cal State system, and private schools. So, right away students know that the end goal is not just getting your high school diploma, but also then moving on to college.”

Today, Hernandez is paying it forward, he stays connected with underclassmen from his alma mater helping them on their path to college in any way that he can. “He actually reached out to me asking if there were any students that were applying for the Posse scholarship because he was willing to talk to them. And I thought that was cool of him to say, ‘hey, you know, I was in that position, not even a year ago. So, if you need my help I’m here,’” recalled Lovo. When Hernandez connects with current seniors, the question he’s asked the most is what colleges they should attend. His reply is: "Go where you feel like you need to go but make sure you work hard. Hard work will always bring you success no matter what and even if it doesn't on the first try, keep trying."

We are proud of our alumni like Hernandez and grateful to have counselors like Lovo in our schools. Our alumni’s fortitude and tenacity inspire us and serve as a reminder that dedication, determination, and commitment are the key ingredients to shaping your dreams into reality.