Friday, June 1, 2018

Open Hearts at Spring Woods High Support Graduate


Look up the word “strength” in the dictionary, and you’re likely to see Patricia Hernandez’ photo.

Freshman through junior years were packed with activities and accomplishments: soccer, student council, class council, Health Occupation Students of America, pep squad, athletic trainer program, National Beta Club. She was student council president her junior year. She participated in internships at Memorial Hermann Medical Center and at an oral surgery center.

She chose challenging academics as well. Except for electives, she took all AP classes and was on the Honor Roll each year.

She had the strength to do it all and do it well.

Senior year got tough. She was already having problems at home. She and her older brother had moved to Houston when she was 7 years old to live with their mother. Patty’s relationship with her step-dad was rocky, but it got worse. And her mother working two jobs added new stress. Everything felt out of control.

Patty spent more and more time in her room, including New Year’s Eve when her mother hosted a party. Before the night was over, her mother came into her room, and began to argue.

“I was so tired of everything,” she says. “I knew this was not okay.”

She grabbed her work clothes and left, eventually moving in with her brother’s girlfriend’s family. Things did not improve between Patty and her mom. They talked, but it was clear that moving back home was not a healthy option.

And this is where “strength” changed from getting things done to persevering.

Patty became depressed. How could she support herself? How would she finish school? How could she face the people at school who knew her as a success?

What she found was kindness. Spring Woods High staff and teachers opened their hearts to her. Though her grades had fallen, and she was no longer on the honor roll, teachers gave her opportunities to a make up work and attend tutorials. Her grade-level principal, Katie Kavanagh, gave her a ticket to the prom and arranged funding for her cap and gown.

Her brother’s mother-in-law, Laura Iniesta, became her second mom. “She helped me so much,” Patty says. “She helped with insurance and so much more. She gave me food and shelter.” She also provided Patty a condo.

Though Patty worked part-time for the oral surgeon, she needed more work. She got a second job as a server at Plucker’s where she works most every day. As a Seventh-day Adventist Church member, she is restricted from working Friday night and Saturday. On Sundays, she works double shifts. 

She is completely self-sufficient – rent for her condo, food, clothing and school expenses.

Her days are packed. She’s at school by 6:15 a.m. for an internship class. By 8 a.m., she’s at Houston Community College for psychology or British literature classes, then back to SWHS for calculus and environmental science. She continues her extracurricular activities.

Patty applied to several colleges, but Laura’s family are all Texas A&M fans. When they took her to visit the campus, she accepted the school’s offer the next day. Scholarships will pay half her expenses, and she’s applying for jobs on campus.

She’ll major in biomedical sciences. “That’s been my interest throughout high school. I’m fascinated by all things medical. When I shadowed doctors during my internship, I paid special attention to the nurses. I loved what they did step by step.”

Patty is a model of perseverance. “I still struggle, but I find a way through. I’m set now. My home is peaceful. There are no arguments. I find strength in prayer.”

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