Each week, we like to recognize different members of our Durham Nativity School Family on our social media. For this week, our DNS Friday Feature is a Class of 2013 Alum, Jonathan Hernandez. After graduating from DNS, Jonathan attended Woodberry Forest School where he graduated in 2017. Following that, he went on to attend Kenyon College, pursuing a double major in Psychology and Modern Language and Literature. Jonathan recently joined the 2021 graduating class at Keynon College.
Jonathan presenting the 2016-2017 Founder’s Award to Roberto Lemus Tetetla at DNS’s 2017 Grauduation.
College graduation marks the penultimate moment of a young man’s 12-year journey with DNS. As such, we are so proud of Jonathan’s accomplishments and excited to see him venture into the ultimate moment, entering the journey into life as a college graduate. When asked about this accomplishment, he offered such thoughtful and heartfelt words.
“Obtaining a bachelor’s degree was a complicated experience with mixed emotions; The achievement brings about immeasurable joy as it does great humility and gratitude in recognizing that the success wasn’t mine alone. When I think about what a bachelor’s degree means for me, I immediately think about what it means for others. For my mother, it means the fulfillment of a lifelong dream and a cathartic release from years of support, work, and sacrifice. For the many institutions that invested in me, it means the culmination of resources, networking, and preparation. Imagine the countless people and organizations that have supported me — that wanted me to succeed — and now I have. In this sense, my success is their success, and that thought itself is occasion for immeasurable joy, humility, and gratitude.
Here is where the emotions get mixed. I believe firmly that these emotions can exist alongside frustration and resentment. I believe in this balance of emotions because I’ve lived it my entire academic career. When the son of an immigrant gets a degree from a prestigious, private, predominantly-white institution he does so having negotiated feelings of alienation and inadequacy. He does so having assimilated and having forfeited parts of himself he didn’t even realize he missed. Getting a college degree has been my primary objective since I attended Durham Nativity School, and there were many times I didn’t think I’d make it. I realize now it’s not because I wasn’t capable or the work itself was too hard, but because I didn’t realize the ways in which my differences, internal and external, were sources of strength. The definition of success in higher education was too narrow.
I believe that at its core, the degree provides social and financial mobility. I accept that obtaining a collegiate degree is success and that I, and everyone else, have the right to celebrate. I also believe that obtaining a collegiate degree is proof that there is still a lot of work to be done in higher education. It is still an enormous challenge for little, brown boys from Durham, North Carolina to graduate institutions of higher education. Being one myself and getting my own degree means that I, and as many people as possible, need to continue fighting relentlessly so that it only gets easier from here.”
Thank you, Jonathan, for your reflection upon your education and allowing DNS to be a part of your story.
As our program continues to grow, we recognize the importance of the social-emotional health of our students and fostering a true home for our current students, alumnus, and families. We promise to continue to provide a safe space for students to Dream Big, Strive to Excel, and Never Give Up!