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Jan. 31, 2022

Student view: Learning to become me

Jesús Hernandez is a sophomore in James Madison College, majoring in social relations and policy with minors in educational studies and Chicano and Latino studies. Hernandez is from Grand Rapids, Michigan and attended East Kentwood High School. In addition to being an assistant recruitment coordinator for JMC, he is a resident assistant and is part of the Roosevelt Institute. This student view was originally featured on the James Madison College website.

Jesús Hernandez (right) at MSU football game
Jesús Hernandez (right)

When I first applied to college, I felt lost. You see, I come from a family of immigrants who did not have the opportunity to pursue higher education. My parents did not know how the college application and selection process worked, so they were not able to offer me any assistance. 

When I first met with Emelia Hammond, our recruitment coordinator, I felt like I was wanted at this program. I worked closely with the administration in James Madison to make sure I was put on the path to succeed in my academics and life in general.

During my year and a half here, I have had the opportunity to build relationships with staff in James Madison College, and it feels like they care about me — what my interests are, my identity and background — not just academics. They listen and allow me to voice everything that is on my mind. Doing so allowed them to better guide me with my studies, as well as life. For example, I discovered resources on campus like the Office of Cultural and Academic Transitions, or OCAT.

These relationships have served me well, as I feel more comfortable navigating college and, although I still feel lost at times, having these supports means a lot.

I often have conversations with some of the professors at James Madison like Professor Rashida L. Harrison. Her first-generation and low-income background was something that I could relate to. During our meetings, she would tell me to talk about my life experiences and not to hold back about what I think or how I feel. To not be scared to be who I am.

In the past, I worried what others would think if they knew the differences between the way I’ve grown up and how they did. I’ve never gone without a roof over my head or gone hungry but, to get those material things like an Xbox or a computer, I have had to work for them.

Being true to myself means letting people know about my life experiences and how they shape my value system. Because of the advice and connection I now have with Professor Harrison, I am inspired to be the best version of myself and that starts with just being me.


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