To hear Erick Hernandez tell it, the 6th-grade version of himself was “a rowdy kid” who didn’t pay much attention to his teachers and didn’t care much about his school work. His grades told the dismal story.
Today, however, there exists a completely different version of Erick Hernandez – a “totally focused student” and graduate of Immaculate High School who has successfully completed the Pathways Danbury Mentoring program, grown in maturity and faith, and earned a $10,000 grant from the Maranatha Foundation (a Jericho Foundation Partner) to pave the way to limitless potential.
What came in the time between?
A loving mother who searched for a better path for her son, The Academy middle school and teachers who had the bandwidth to care, and a mentor who invested in him every week for four years – filling the gap left by an absent father, sharing biblical truths, modeling success, and lending a listening ear and sage advice.
Erick, now 17 and a graduate of Immaculate High School, owes it all to the day his mother found Pathways Danbury Youth Ministries.
“The impact of Pathways on my life is crazy, honestly,” he said. “I can’t even think who I would be if we didn’t find this program. I know I would have hung out with the wrong people. I know that this program is what it says it is.”
Erick was one of eight PDYM boys – and eight girls – who last week graduated from Danbury high schools, the realization of Jericho Partnership’s goal to increase graduation rates among youth in Danbury.
Erick says the grant – which won’t be available to him for a few years – is “a relief, honestly… I know if I want to jump-start my career, I have some money to do it. To me, the wait doesn’t matter. I have to mature a little bit and learn how to deal with money. But it’s there and I know I can rely on that.”
In the immediate future, Erick will be attending Naugatuck Valley Community College for two years to take his core classes, and then plans to switch to a school with a top-notch IT program, as he wants to work in the cyber-security field.
The decision to attend Naugatuck was made, he said, “because it’s cheaper.” For his whole life, finances have been his family’s greatest challenge. In fact, it was during a time when his mother lost her job that Erick says his mentor, John Wescott, made the biggest difference in his life.
“To have our breadwinner lose a job – it’s hard. But he kept me positive,” he said of his mentor. “He said God is in this and I had to wait until the end when God shows me the plan He has for me. He said it was an obstacle to overcome before God could give me the bigger picture.”
Erick also said Wescott stood in the gap for his father, who “wasn’t around much….For him to tell me how a man should be – it really did help.”