KPIX 5 Students Rising Above

(KPIX 5) — She keeps a photo album with his report cards dating back to 7th grade.

Middle school was indeed a turning point for both Jesse Hernandez and his grandmother, Kathy. During his childhood, he battled depression and hopelessness. Moving in with her became his lifeline.

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“Just knowing someone loved me was the moment that everything became more clear,” said Jesse.

Kathy said at first, Jesse was only going to stay for a few weeks. But then he just stayed.

“Made sure he got up and went to school everyday, something they didn’t always do at home,” she said.  She gave him stability, a routine and a goal. “Because I want Jesse to make something out of his life.”

Jesse was solemn when he explained that his mom and dad didn’t know how to parent.

“I don’t want to bash on my parents like they were bad people, but they were going through their own times and dealing with their own addictions,” said Jesse. “They’re trying to overcome them today, but I believe both grandmothers and surrounding family are the reason why I’m still alive.”

Kathy had rules for Jesse – she told him he’s going to school and he’s not to get into trouble. It didn’t take a lot of pushing because that’s what Jesse wanted, too.

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For him, it’s either education of nothing. It’s the reason why he’s not only still in school, but making the grade at Richmond High.

“I’m excited to be in the classroom, to learn things I didn’t know, to better myself,” he said.

AP Economics teacher Josh Hastings said Jesse has an internal drive and his motivation comes from a desire to really do more with what he was given.

“He’s a hard worker, he’s the kind of person we, when you write about grit, when you talk about the kind of resilience young people in schools like Richmond High need, he’s the kid you’d hold up and take a picture of and say ‘this is what we’re talking about,’” said Hastings.

Hastings added that Jesse has worked from the bottom up to top of his class, excelling in debate, writing and classroom discussion.

Jesse said he promised both his grandmothers he wouldn’t give up. Now he can hardly believe college is just an acceptance letter away.

His grandmother radiates with love and pride for her grandson. “He came out of a bad situation and he’s just turned his life around.”

As for Jesse, he believes if you keep pushing and believe you can do it – anything is possible.

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“I want to show kids you’re not bound by your past.”