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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
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How to pay for college
Minority students get tips and inspiration from the successful son of migrant farmworkers.
By SAUNDRA AMRHEIN, Times Staff Writer
Published November 27, 2007
Arnold Hernandez, the spokesman for the Sallie Mae Fund's Paying for College Bus Tour, tells how he overcame the odds to achieve a higher education as he talks to students at Durant High School in Plant City.
[Skip O'Rourke | Times]
PLANT CITY - Arnold Hernandez never brought friends home, never wanted them to see the blades of grass growing through the floorboards.
He blushed in shame as the school bus dropped him off in the fields, where his young hands had pulled cabbage and collard greens since age 9. His parents, Mexican immigrants, never spoke of college.
But when the family gathered to watch Spanish-language news, the TV journalists fascinated him. Arnold decided that was what he wanted to do, but he knew he needed an education first.
"Going to college was like the moon and the stars," Hernandez, 26, told a group of Hispanic students Monday at Durant High School. "I knew it was out there, I just didn't know how to get there."
Hernandez pestered financial aid advisers and guidance counselors, tracking down scholarships to attend St. Edward's University in Austin, Texas. He became a television journalist for the Univision affiliate in Austin.
Once embarrassed by his background, Hernandez now shares it with students, hoping to inspire them to take the same journey.
He is a national spokesman for the Sallie Mae Fund's Paying for College Bus Tour, which holds workshops nationwide. The tour's aim is to ease the path to college for minority students.
Hernandez presented dozens of Web sites on scholarships, college applications and student loans.
"If you live in a household where your parents don't talk about college, it's up to you to get there," he said.
Despite his average grades in high school and the mantra from teachers that he wasn't college material, Hernandez won the most scholarship money his senior year, he said.
But when his college acceptance arrived, his parents hid the letter. They had no money for college and didn't want to break his heart, he said.
Spanish-speaking students and parents are invited to a free financial aid workshop with Arnold Hernandez tonight at Alonso High School, 8302 Montague St. in northwest Hillsborough County. The program, open to the public, will be in Spanish. A light dinner will be offered at 5:30 p.m., followed by the workshop from 6:30 to 8 p.m. One student will win a $1,000 scholarship.