Will to succeed: This student is a success story

HARLINGEN — Even the most chaotic of life’s journeys may offer an experience that changes everything.

Once taken captive by this occurrence, the traveler may think more deeply on the experience. Soon the young journeyman/journeywoman, previously seeking direction and finding none, now has a definite purpose.

Such is the case with Bianca Hernandez, 20, who is completing her high school diploma through a program called “Connect to Success.”

“I was moving back and forth from Alaska to Texas,” she said. “I liked the airports and the busy-ness. I wanted to see the world.”

She’d seen a little too much of that world. But as it turned out, they laid the groundwork for a much grander voyage ahead.

The Harlingen native had been moving back and forth between Harlingen and Alaska for work for quite some time. Various factors including lack of support had compelled her to drop out of school four times in order to work just to feed herself, she said. At age 14 she was actually homeless, she said, selling cupcakes door to door just to purchase her next meal.

In December, her situation in Alaska deteriorated so badly she moved back to Harlingen. Her first purpose, of course, was to find a job so she could eat. She found one, quickly, and performed well. But there was another idea firmly entrenched in her mind — to not only survive but also excel. She wanted to fly commercial airlines. How would she do it? She hadn’t finished high school.

She only lacked a couple of credits, so of course all she needed to do was contact one of the local high schools — not.

She called high schools in Harlingen, San Benito, and the Mid-Valley with no success. She contacted one school district after another — and each gave her the same frustrating answer.

“They said I was too old instead of trying to help me,” she recalled. “I just wanted to get my diploma.”

With quiet resilience in her voice, she added, “It just made me more motivated.”

So strong was her motivation she was willing to take the Texas education system to court. Her research revealed the state of Texas guarantees its residents the right to earn a high school diploma until age 26. With this information, she was confused about her difficulties just finishing high school.

At the same time, however, doors finally began opening. She learned about Connect to Success, which suited her needs perfectly. There were still some hiccups trying to sign up at the Parental Involvement office but nothing she couldn’t handle.

“Things always got in the way,” she said. “They were closed when I got out of work or I didn’t have the right paperwork.”

She had to bring in several pieces of paperwork in order to enroll in program. However, the idea began to materialize that she was actually, finally, getting back into school.

It was almost surreal the way she described it.

“It was unbelievable as I went about getting registered,” she said.

She remembers nervousness and apprehension the first night in June when she attended classes at KEYS Academy — and relief. She was in school with students her age who were dealing with similar circumstances. They were students with dreams and plans for the future.

She looks forward to finishing next month. She plans to get her basics at Texas State Technical College before heading to Texas A&M University – College Station to earn her license to become a commercial pilot.

“I want to see the world,” she said wistfully once again.

The success she’s enjoying now only validates her struggle — it was all for something after all.