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The Gift That Keeps On Giving

Giovanny Hernandez working on a project in a lab with an instructor.

Giovanny Hernandez has always had a knack for teaching — just ask his friends. Even before Hernandez considered education as a career field, his high school classmates knew they could turn to him for help when their math lessons didn’t quite make sense.

“I feel like my interests as a person have always been to try to benefit and help others in any way that I can,” Hernandez said. “I try and make sure to look out for other people and just make sure everyone’s on the same page as me if anyone’s falling behind.”

Thanks to a special scholarship from the College of Education, many more North Carolina students will soon have the opportunity to learn from Mr. Hernandez.

Hernandez is graduating this spring with a bachelor’s degree in mathematics education. This first-generation college student and son of immigrants was born in California but spent much of his life in Greensboro. During his final semester as an NC State undergraduate, he worked as a student teacher in a high school in eastern North Carolina.

Being the best teacher he can be for his current and future students is vitally important to Hernandez, but he also wants to be a role model for them personally. Some, unfortunately, have never had one like him.

“For me, since it’s a very woman-dominated field, it’s difficult to have a male role model there, and especially for Hispanic males, it’s very, very rare to see a Hispanic male teacher, other than like ESL [English as a Second Language] or something like that,” Hernandez said. “So, I felt like it was my duty as a Hispanic male to try and bring that back to the community to benefit those students who would go through the same obstacles I went through.”

The NC State College of Education Excellence Fund is helping him do just that.

The fund’s student scholarships enable Hernandez and other recipients, particularly students of color, to pursue education as a career. This ensures that many of North Carolina’s future teachers — the College of Education is No. 1 for education majors in the state, as well as the top producer of STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) teachers in North Carolina — reflect the diversity of the state and students they will serve.

Hernandez wanted to attend NC State whatever the cost, but this extraordinary piece of financial aid certainly helped him pay for his four years in the Pack. He calls his decision to only apply to NC State a Hail Mary play that paid off.

“[The Excellence Fund] was not a deciding factor, but it was really something that helped me stay there. That way I didn’t have to spend too much more money taking out loans and such,” Hernandez said. “I’m trying my best not to have my parents pay for anything college-wise, mainly because it’s just a very low-income family and it’s hard for them to.”

Currently, 60% of students in the College of Education have a demonstrated financial need. That comes to $17,300 on average — the highest of any college at NC State. Gifts to the Excellence Fund help alleviate much of that financial burden and allow students such as Hernandez to continue building big, bold futures for themselves and everyone they will one day teach.

But private support does more than just provide College of Education students with tuition assistance. Much more.

For example, gifts to the college provide Hernandez and his fellow students with access to METRC, the Media and Education Technology Resource Center. METRC gives them the hands-on training with literacy and digital learning resources that will help them be effective educators in an increasingly high-tech classroom.

Private gifts also enable Hernandez and other student-teachers to buy supplies for their classrooms. The Student-Teacher Mini-Grants Program provides participants with up to $200 each so they can purchase needed resources — often the same resources that METRC has taught them to master.

Whatever tools Hernandez uses, though, he wants his students to know that succeeding in math is not something some people are born able to do and others can never attain.

“Math is just a learning experience,” Hernandez said. “It’s just a matter of trying to learn it together, and that’s what I usually tell my students.”

Thanks to the NC State College of Education Excellence Fund and other philanthropic outlets, many students will be able to learn from and with Mr. Hernandez moving forward.

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