Although George West High School senior Kevin Hernandez still has many goals he hopes to accomplish — including one day becoming a teacher and football coach — he moved closer to achieving them by earning a scholarship to attend Texas A&M University-Kingsville.
Hernandez is used to facing challenges, but his positive outlook, determination and friendly, encouraging interactions with others have inspired many — including those who serve as coaches, teachers and mentors to him.
While Hernandez has dealt with the difficulties of having osteogenesis imperfecta — brittle bone disease — and has limited mobility which requires the use of a wheelchair, he hasn’t let that dampen his enthusiasm for life and love of sports.
“Over the last few years I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Kevin and he is definitely a ray of sunshine, such an incredible person,” said Felix Duran, assistant principal and coach at GWHS. “The first time I met him he was keeping score in basketball. Just seeing how dedicated and positive he was ... I knew he was someone special.
“If I could bring half the energy he does on a daily basis, I’d be so much better. He smiles every day and really helps brighten your day. He’s not shy — he talks to everybody and he is always willing to help out.”
Hernandez has also demonstrated that he is a dedicated student of the game — especially football.
“He does his research and he’d be asking me about the game plan and would talk about players on the other team, asking how we’re going to stop them. I told him I didn’t know — if I knew that I’d be coaching in the pros. He is very knowledgeable and he will definitely be missed around here when he graduates.”
Learning about those attributes led TAUM-Kingsville to offer Hernandez a chance to help fulfill his dreams with a $15,000 scholarship for four years. At a ceremony in front of George West High School, it was evident that representatives of the university were as excited to welcome Hernandez as he is to attend school there.
“We want to welcome Kevin Hernandez to our Javelina family,” said Adrian Garcia, a recruiter for TAMU-K. “We are going to make sure you succeed. We’ll be there for you, and we also have a lot of alumni who are going to take care of you.”
Hernandez’s great-grandmother, Gail Baker, mother Lesley Ticer and stepfather Joe Guzman were among those attending a ceremony in which Hernandez was presented with his letter of acceptance to the university and the details of his scholarship.
“I’m not sure if it’s more exciting for us or for him,” Baker said. “It’s hard for us to believe he’s even graduating, time has gone by so quickly. Kevin will do well. He’s very vocal and never meets a stranger. He volunteered at the hospital in Beeville so everybody knows him there, and anytime we go to Wal-Mart in Beeville he always sees somebody he knows.”
Ticer also said she is amazed that in just a few weeks, Hernandez will receive his high school degree.
“That’s just ... he’s growing up,” she said. “I’m so proud of him, of what he has accomplished and what he’s going to accomplish.”
Guzman, who helps make sure that Hernandez goes to all the activities he enjoys, said he’s also seen a lot of progress for his stepson.
“I’m really proud of him — he’s come through a lot,” Guzman said. “He has faced a lot of difficulty but it definitely hasn’t stopped him, it’s only made him more determined. He does great – I’m so proud of him.”
Porky, the Javelina mascot, and several members of the TAMU-K administration, college deans and representatives of the athletic department were all on hand to celebrate Hernandez’s scholarship offer, and KRIS 6 TV also sent a crew to document the event.
Asked why he wanted to go to TAMU-K, Hernandez said the encouragement and support they’ve given him even before he has enrolled has made a strong impression on him.
“I feel like they’ll support me and love me all four years, and it’s a great university,” he said. “They have a great band (the Pride of South Texas Javelina Marching Band, which Kevin hopes to be a member of), they’re great at football and also have strong academics.”
Hernandez was presented with several special items to prepare him for his college adventure, including caps, an authentic game day jersey, a Javelina yard sign and backpack.
Ticer said she is thrilled that Hernandez is able to attend the university on a scholarship.
“That’s going to be a tremendous help — we wouldn’t have been able to afford it,” she said. “It’s such a blessing for him to have that. Next is graduation and college and he’ll have to study, study, study. College is a whole other level so he’s got to be focused.”
Forner GWHS Principal Richard Waterhouse, who was at George West from 2013-2020 and is now superintendent at Skidmore-Tynan, was among those who attended the ceremony and shook Hernandez’s hand.
New GWHS Principal Joy Beverly, who started at George West in January, said Hernandez made a strong positive impression on her from the beginning.
“He is just such a positive person and he was one of the first people at the school who spoke to me,” she said. “He was very welcoming. With his positive outlook I know he will do well. I expect great things out of him.”