Father of 5 awarded his degree

Published 9:55 am Monday, May 17, 2010

A speaker at Riverland Community College’s commencement ceremony Friday night took longer than average to get his degree but thinks it all worked out for the best.

Sergio Hernandez is not the typical college student because he’s 31 years old, is married and has five children. He doesn’t mind if he’s different because waiting to get his degree has made him appreciate more.

“I’m grateful it took me this long because I had the opportunity to go to college many years ago but I didn’t know what I wanted to go for and didn’t want to waste money,” Hernandez said. “I don’t believe I would have been as much of a success.”

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Hernandez lives in Walters with Jamie, his wife of almost eight years, and his five children, Adam, 12, Zechariah, 9, Lydia, 7, Esther, 5, and Isaiah, 3. One of the reasons he went back to school was to be able to provide more for his family and show his kids that a college degree will help them get better jobs.

Currently, Hernandez works at Albert Lea Select Foods as a third shift maintenance mechanic. He got a job when he was in high school and focused on that instead of his school work. He didn’t graduate but eventually received his General Educational Development certificate.

“I chose my job over my education,” Hernandez said. “I regret being as stubborn as I was.”

He’s making up for lost time by being active in different clubs and the student senate. He’s president of Riverland’s Albert Lea chapter of SkillsUSA. He likes being able to participate in their competitions where he does extemporaneous speaking and prepared speech.

He graduated Friday with a degree from the construction electrician program at Riverland. He hopes to find a part-time job to start getting experience while he keeps his current job because he feels secure at Albert Lea Select Foods and wants to be able to always provide for his family.

Hernandez is not unfamiliar with juggling many responsibilities. He has yet to learn his grades for his last semester of schooling but for the first four semesters he attended Riverland he received a 4.0 grade point average. He was working third shift full time, studying and finding time for his family for the last two years.

“It was a struggle and a great sacrifice,” Hernandez said. “What I learned was time management.”

He said his faith and relationships at the Albert Lea Vineyard Church have helped him throughout his life. He got encouragement and guidance from members of the church.

“I do have flaws, and I’m working on those,” Hernandez said. “The church has been very, very helpful.”

With all his practice in public speaking he hopes his speech will resonate with the audience of new graduates. He plans to have a simple speech with three main principles.

“Being a leader, setting goals and having fun,” Hernandez said.

He mentioned his wife and mother-in-law as some of his main supporters and as the people who helped him decide to go back to school.

“I’d like to thank friends and family for all their support,” Hernandez said. “Also my advisers Jason Merritt, Melissa Diegnau, Mike Bute and my electrical instructor Dan Rayman.”