Raul Hernandez, a senior in mechanical engineering, was not always certain of what his future held. Born and raised in Mexico, Hernandez came to the United States in 2001, and he and his family settled in Rock Island, Illinois. Hernandez is the oldest of three and the first to attend higher education—his brother is in junior high and his sister is in community college.
When it came to his decision on what to do after high school, Hernandez turned to his parents, who only had attended elementary school, for advice. They advised him to do whatever he thought was best for his future, because they never had an opportunity like this before. They also mentioned that they would support him in whatever he chose to do and so Hernandez went looking for more advice, knowing he had a number of options available. Hernandez turned to his cousins who were attending community college, and their experiences gave him the push that brought him to college.
Beginning in 2010, Hernandez attended Black Hawk Community College with the intentions of getting his associate’s in applied sciences. At the time, he had no intention of transferring to a university but a mechanical engineering course got him thinking it might be his next step.
Hernandez looked to Kim Armstrong, the assistant dean of student services at Black Hawk for some direction and guidance. The next thing he knew, Hernandez was applying to both an Iowa and Illinois University.
He says both schools had quality engineering programs, but once he visited Iowa State’s campus he knew it was where he was supposed to be. “The campus was beautiful, the visit was very informative, and the transition process was very smooth,” remarks Hernandez.
He admits his first few weeks at Iowa State were tough as he struggled with making the mental transition of being away from his family and support system. However, it did not take long for him to start getting involved with clubs and organizations around campus. He participated in the Society of Hispanic Professional Engineers, the Transfer Admissions Ambassador Program and the Student Support Services program, and he also co-piloted as a peer mentor for Women in Science and Engineering (WiSE). He says his fraternity, Sigma Lambda Beta, had the biggest impact on him. “We all faced similar challenges, we came from similar backgrounds, looking to better our lives and community, and we all wanted to graduate,” says Hernandez.
Hernandez recently received the Alliant Energy/Erroll B. Davis Jr. Achievement Award. The award was created to honor Erroll B. Davis Jr. and his 30 years of service in the industry and is given to rising seniors in business and engineering that have displayed leadership in campus and community organizations with potential for future career success.
When Hernandez received word that he had earned the award, he did not know how to react. “Well, I told my parents I received a scholarship, and they were happy for me, but they did not know the extent of the award, nor did I,” says Hernandez. It wasn’t until he was working with his job as a peer mentor with WiSE that he learned how big the scholarship was. “When I realized how prestigious the award was I was extremely happy, because I knew my last year at Iowa State was taken care of financially and a huge pressure was lifted off my shoulders,” says Hernandez. Along with this award, Hernandez also received the Exemplary Mentors Award.
Hernandez will be serving a co-op next semester and plans to see where his studies take him after graduation.