‘My top school, my dream school, offered me a full scholarship’
By Elizabeth Young
It’s late on a Thursday afternoon, two weeks into the school year, and Einstein’s in Hedberg Library is packed with the after-class crowd. Students are grabbing coffees, pulling books out of backpacks. Marcelo Hernandez ’18 stands out. He’s the only one in the room wearing suit pants, a dress shirt, a tie — and a nametag.
“HELLO” reads the sticker. “I AM MR. HERNANDEZ.”
“I had a presentation,” Marcelo says to explain the nametag. He just came from EDU 2750: Fostering Behavior in the Classroom, where he had to lead a lesson as if he were already a teacher. “I figured I should look the part.”
A sophomore majoring in mathematics with a minor in secondary education, Marcelo is determined to spend his time at Carthage mastering not just math, but also how to teach math in the very best way possible to students of all abilities and learning styles.
His dream? “I want to be a high school math teacher with the hope of being a professor some day,” he says.
How he’ll get there? A full-tuition scholarship from Carthage.
‘I knew I could do better’
The Kenosha Oaks Scholarships
Eight full-tuition scholarships (valued in excess of $160,000 each) are awarded to Kenosha residents every year. To compete, admitted students must submit a Kenosha Oaks Scholarship application by Dec. 3.
Marcelo was not always a stellar student. His freshman year of high school, he had a 3.3 GPA. “I was slacking, I wasn’t turning in homework, I wasn’t studying for tests. Somehow I managed a 3.3, but I knew I could do better.” So he got to work. He raised his GPA to a 4.0 for his sophomore, junior, and senior years, bringing his cumulative GPA to a 3.8. He realized he had a gift for mathematics, and for teaching tough math concepts to his classmates. He started talking with his favorite teachers about their college and career paths. “Almost every single one of my best teachers had gone to Carthage,” Marcelo says. So he applied here too.
Then he applied for one of Carthage’s Kenosha Oaks Scholarships.
“I can still remember the day I opened the letter,” he says. “My dad had already opened it, but I didn’t know it. He’s like, ‘Marcelo, Carthage sent a letter to you.’ I picked it up and started reading. I didn’t even read the whole thing. I got to the beginning — where it said, ‘We are pleased to inform you that you have received a scholarship that covers full tuition’ — and I started jumping around the house, just running and hopping. I couldn’t even believe it.
“I was so excited. My top school, my dream school, had offered me a full scholarship. That was more money than I could even imagine. All the stressing, and studying for exams, and staying up late to study? It was all worth it.”
An incredible gift
Once Marcelo learned he had received a full-tuition scholarship, his parents told him college was his new full-time job. “The amount I got in scholarships is actually more than they made last year, so it makes me treat my college career as if I’m going into work every day,” he says. He wants to take advantage of every opportunity.
“It’s been really awesome,” he says. “I know myself well enough to know that if I joined too many clubs, I wouldn’t be able to do well in school, so I found a nice balance. I chose one club that I knew would mean a lot to me, which is Math Club.” He also found a part-time job as a math tutor for students at Kenosha’s Gateway Technical College. He sees that as a great step forward in his career. “I get to know different learning styles.”
He values his small classes and the attention he gets from faculty members. “They really make the content understandable, and they really make me want to continue with mathematics.”
He had Prof. Aaron Trautwein for Calculus I and Calculus II. “Dr. Trautwein is amazing. He was also mathematics and secondary education when he was in college, so I can look to him and say, ‘Hey, I want to be like you.’ I saw a lot of people in the class understood the way he taught, so it was very cool to get to know his teaching style.”
He had Prof. Mark Snavely for the mathematics J-Term course Discrete Structures. “He introduced a whole set of mathematics that I had never thought of before,” Marcelo says. “I always thought that math was mostly computational. This class introduced me to the idea that math was more about logic and the way you think. I never thought I’d like math that much.”
‘A world of difference’
“I don’t come from a family that has money. My parents don’t have savings. I was always thinking, ‘How am I going to pay for college? Were the last four years even worth it, focusing that much on school and stressing myself out?’ Then I got the letter.”
Now that he’s a sophomore, Marcelo hopes to get more involved at Carthage and Kenosha. “One of my highest ambitions is to become president of Math Club,” he says. He also wants to volunteer in area schools, “to get more experience in the teaching field, and get my name out there.”
But for now, his days start with classes and end with studying. In between, he’s in lab, at his tutoring job, or working as a dishwasher at Kenosha’s Breakwater Bar and Grill.
It’s not easy to come up with the right words to thank the donors who made his scholarship possible.
“I don’t come from a family that has money,” he says. “My parents don’t have savings. I don’t have money. I was always thinking, ‘How am I going to pay for college? Were the last four years even worth it, focusing that much on school and stressing myself out?’ Then I got the letter. It made every late night, every time I said no to my friends who wanted to skip studying to hang out — that letter made all those times worth it.
“A scholarship like this can literally make a world of difference to someone like me, who has nothing,” Marcelo continues. “When you receive a gift like that, you’re speechless. And then you want to make it up to people. I wasn’t given this for no reason. I want to do something with it. I’m now going to become a teacher, and I’m going to impact hundreds of other students. Their donation isn’t going to just me; it’s going everywhere. It’s spreading.”
What has his scholarship meant to him?
“Everything,” Marcelo says. “It’s meant everything.”