We Are UNCW Telling our story, one Seahawk at a time.

Bruce Lopez Hernandez

April 30, 2018

Bruce Hernandez ’18 did not expect to attend college. He began working with his hands right after high school, toiling on farms from state to state picking blueberries, strawberries, tomatoes and sweet potatoes.

One day, he ran into Centro Hispano director Edel Segovia, whom he hadn’t seen since meeting her more than a year earlier at his high school. She again encouraged him to pursue his education, as she had at their first meeting.

“After a year and a half working outdoors, I quickly grew tired of it,” Hernandez recalled. He remembered Segovia’s encouragement to attend school, and this time made a different choice. With her support, Hernandez earned an associate’s degree at Cape Fear Community College, then transferred to UNCW for a bachelor’s degree in exercise science.

During his time at UNCW, Hernandez helped other students who thought college was out of reach. Through the MI CASA (Mentors Initiating Community Action, Support and Advocacy) program, Centro Hispano’s two-year mentoring program for Hispanic high school students, he guided mentees on their path to higher education. He aided them in SAT and ACT preparation and helped them complete financial aid and college applications.

His desire to help others went beyond the UNCW campus. Hernandez connected farmworkers and their families to health services and resources available to them through the Pender County Farmworkers Health Program. He also filled out health and medical assessments and taught them basic health information. “Getting involved in my community and sharing my knowledge has helped me grow,” he said.

Hernandez hopes to start working full-time with Manos Unidas Farmworkers program in Atkinson, NC, after graduation. “I enjoyed doing my internship with them this spring semester,” he said. “My family comes from a farm-working background. They have struggled and made so many sacrifices for my siblings and me. So, every time I reach out and speak to these farm-working families, I picture them being my parents when they were in the same position.”

Alongside his degree in exercise science, Hernandez will leave UNCW with an important lesson he learned along the way.

“Not everything in the outside world will be handed to you,” he said. “UNCW has helped me grow as a person because not only did it provide me with an education, but it helped me improve my networking, research and communication skills.”

Hernandez said he will be forever grateful to Segovia and to MI CASA coordinator Cris Montero for their support.

“No words or action would be enough to thank her. She’s like a mother to all Centro’s students,” he said. “She only wants the students to shine and be happy. Thanks to Chris Montero for being a brother, Dr. Segovia for being like a mom to everyone and Centro Hispano for being a home away from home.”

-- Venita Jenkins