March 22, 2023
Alumnus Finds "Universal Language" in Engineering
Giovanni Hernandez arrived in the US when he was in 10th grade. He had no trouble with the concepts he was learning in high school, but he struggled with learning English at first.
A couple of years—and lot of hard work later—he came to FRCC to prepare himself for a four-year university. His says those classes gave him the foundational support he needed to be successful in college. He’s now studying civil engineering at the University of Colorado-Boulder, and is set to graduate with his bachelor’s degree next year.
Arriving in Colorado
When Giovanni started as a sophomore at Skyline High School in Longmont, he struggled to understand the content. Not because he didn’t get the concepts—he had always done well in school growing up in Mexico. But now everything was in English. “I had studied some English, but this was science, math. I couldn’t understand the problems. It was so frustrating. I thought, ‘I just can’t handle this.’”
He worked hard and found some helpful resources—so by his junior year things started going better. “I started to get involved in clubs. I took AP physics and public speaking to challenge myself.” He even volunteered as a translator during and after school for other students who needed it.
“That’s why I went into engineering,” he laughs. “Because math is more of a universal language.”
Finding an Affordable College
Giovanni is the first in his family to go to college. “My parents didn’t have any college education, neither did my siblings. I want to use this experience to help them—to help my family. That’s my motivation.”
Although his parents strongly encouraged him to get an education, they weren’t able to help pay for college. His high school counselor told him to start at a community college because the classes would be much smaller and he could work on improving his English.
He also points out, “I could take the same classes I would at a university, but for a lot less money.”
What Giovanni didn’t know was that almost half of FRCC students get grants that help them pay for school—and don’t have to be repaid. “The FRCC scholarships I got made a big difference.”
A Supportive Community
Once there, he met “amazing people who helped guide me through, who welcomed me. I found my community—my advisor, my math professors were my mentors. All the faculty and staff played an active role. They helped me with all my questions. It was a great experience.”
It wasn’t all a piece of cake, but Giovanni quickly found strong support. “The FRCC student success center was so important,” he remembers. “They offered tutoring and helped me with my math classes. I pretty much spent all my days in that place. They’d ask what I was working on and help—especially with physics and math concepts.”
“I got a great foundation from FRCC instructors for the four-year university. I would highly recommend starting at FRCC, getting your foundation and saving lots of money. It’s a great place to start. There are so many resources that FRCC has to offer.”
Getting Prepared for CU
He knew he wanted to transfer to CU-Boulder to study civil engineering, so he got to know one of his FRCC math professors who was in close contact with faculty members at CU. “She helped me with planning to transfer. Having that professor who was connected to the right person at CU, that was really helpful for getting ready for the transferring process.” His advisors also helped him choose the right classes that would count at the university toward his bachelor’s degree.
As Giovanni’s classes at FRCC got harder, he found he did even better.
After completing two associate degrees at FRCC, Giovanni transferred to CU to study engineering. To save money, he still lives with his folks in Longmont—he wakes up early to take the bus to Boulder. “I was well prepared for CU. Engineering school is rough, but FRCC prepared me to be successful here.”
Despite the challenging material, he’s getting As in most of his classes. “I just built on the concepts from my earlier classes in the harder classes at CU. They’re interconnected; I could make those connections with what I had already learned.”
An Internship, Then a Bachelor’s Degree
Giovanni expects to graduate in 2022 with a Bachelor of Science degree in civil engineering—with an emphasis on construction engineering and management. He’s thinking about grad school, but also has an internship lined up for this summer with a big nationwide construction company. “I’m excited to get some real work experience with a commercial building contractor.”
He says his time at FRCC helped him learn two keys to success: effective communication and relationship building. “Those have played a huge role in my success in college.”