MIDLAND Myrna Hernandez was making car parts in Midland when the company decided to move. Faced with unemployment and knowing very little English, she picked herself up, took English as a Second Language classes, got her GED certificate, graduated from Midland College and went on to get her bachelor’s degree in bilingual education and Spanish from the University of Texas of the Permian Basin. She has now worked at MISD for 11 years. She teaches kindergarten at Bonham Elementary School.
“I have always wanted to be a teacher,” Hernandez said. “I love working with kids. I also loved going to MC, but it was hard. I was so nervous when I first started. I did not understand everything the teacher was saying, but MC professors were very understanding. They knew everything was harder for me. Teachers understood that I would think in Spanish and then translate everything, so they were always willing to help me. If I did not know something, teachers tutored me. That extra help made me more confident. MC has excellent, patient teachers. I try to be like them for my students. I know all my students are different, and I try to understand each one’s needs.”
Hernandez found another support system at MC: friends.
“It was easy to go to school when I knew my friends would be there,” Hernandez said. “I met a lot of friends. Some were even from the same town in Mexico where I was born, and we had never met before. We all spoke Spanish and were in the same situation learning English and going to college. We had fun together; we studied together; we even applied for scholarships together. All of us received the Bill Pace Cogdell Scholarship. It paid for books, tuition and fees at MC and UTPB. I am a single mom so I needed that help. It was difficult to pay for my house, my car and have everything my kids needed.”
Hernandez says her son and her daughter were her motivation to finish school. Now her oldest granddaughter says she wants to be a teacher like Grandma when she grows up.
“I wanted to go to school to teach my kids that anything is possible,” Hernandez said. “I wanted to make them proud of their Mom. When you want something that much, nothing is going to stop you, especially at MC and Cogdell Learning Center. Instructors are going to support you every step of the way.”
As a kindergarten teacher, Hernandez is in a unique position to use her experience to help others who might not know about all the opportunities available at Cogdell Center.
“A lot of my students’ parents tell me, ‘I would like to go to college, but I do not know any English,’” Hernandez said. “I tell them my story. I started college when I was 31 with two kids. I did not know anything about how the system worked. I did not know about financial aid. I did not even know about grades. I found out at graduation rehearsal that I was graduating with honors. So I tell those parents to go to free ESL classes at Cogdell Learning Center; go to MC and start from there. They will help you.”
The Cogdell Learning Center is a pillar of the Midland community. On Friday, April 12 the Center celebrated 25 years of serving Midland residents. Faculty and staff help Midlanders apply for college, financial aid and get ready to register. In the classrooms, faculty teach citizenship, GED preparation and English as a second language. In fact, Hernandez was an adult ESL teacher at Cogdell Learning Center for two years.
“When I first started at MC, I learned about work-study programs, and I was placed in a job at Cogdell Learning Center,” Hernandez said. “I could see how the staff and the Bill Pace Cogdell Scholarship helped first generation college students. The Scholarship helped me tremendously. It made my bachelor’s degree possible; it made my dream of becoming a teacher a reality, and I am so thankful for the opportunity.”
For more information about the free services offered at the Cogdell Learning Center, visit www.midland.edu/cogdell.