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Gina Hernandez

College of Education graduate fulfills dream, becoming first in family to receive a bachelor's degree

Posted: 12/26/2012
Ever since she was 10 years old, Gina Hernandez has wanted to be a teacher.

Hernandez vowed to pursue that dream after writing a biography for a fifth-grade class about her father, who had come to America from Mexico at 21 years of age in search of a better life, but without a college degree.

“I remember him telling me how he struggled and how he had to start from the bottom up to make ends meet,” said Hernandez, who had the honor of carrying the College of Education banner during the recent December graduation.

Hernandez also became the first in her family to receive a college degree from Roosevelt University during that graduation. “Because of my father and his story, I knew I had the opportunity to do better,” she said.

A special education major, Hernandez, who grew up in South Elgin, Ill., did student teaching stints during the fall semester at Naperville North High School and at Bolingbrook Elementary School.

“Gina is energetic, caring and exuberant,” said Susan Sturm, a special education teaching supervisor and instructor at Roosevelt’s Schaumburg Campus. “She has sparkled in the classroom with all students at every age and ability level and I know she will have a bright future in teaching.”

While at Roosevelt, Hernandez enjoyed the College of Education’s small class sizes and the helpful advice of her instructors.

“I’ve learned that every child learns differently,” said Hernandez.  “You need to look at each child individually in order to determine what he or she needs to make things better.”

Hernandez’s father got as far as middle school and also attended a trade school in order to become an electrician.  Her mother who works as a para-professional with children who have special needs and has an associate’s degree from Elgin Community College,  the same place where Hernandez began her college career.  She transferred from ECC to Roosevelt in 2010.

“My father and mother both encouraged me to get my degree and I’m proud to be able to accomplish this,” she said recently.

Hernandez currently is tutoring grade-school children part time at a U-46 elementary school in Barrington.  She also plans on substitute teaching while seeking a full-time job in special education in Chicago’s suburbs.