Ignacio Hernandez: Finding A Path
Hernandez Found the Stability He Needed to Graduate at Phoenix
Ignacio Hernandez failed his first senior year.
He was still reeling from his mother’s death, and his depression over that loss led to drug use and a suicide attempt.
His story could have ended there. He could have found himself going from a bad place to a much worse place.
But, that didn’t happen thanks to the support of his family and help from the staff of Phoenix High School.
Hernandez graduated in June from Phoenix and he plans to attend Kalamazoo Valley Community College. Hernandez attended Hillside Middle School and started high school at Kalamazoo Central High School, when his family moved to California. There, he attended several schools before his mother died in 2015 from complications following surgery.
After that, he was just lost. He started doing drugs. It was after taking some psychedelic drugs that he tried cutting his wrists. He shows off the scars when he talks about having surgery to repair the damage to his tendons.
“That’s just where I was at in my head,” he said. “Now, I feel stronger and more humble. I feel more conscious about my actions and choices.”
He had the choice of returning to Kalamazoo Central to redo his senior year, but he knew that wasn’t right for him.
“I had already done a senior year. I didn’t want to do another senior year,” Hernandez said. “This was my second senior year and I knew it would have taken longer if I went over to Kalamazoo Central.”
He’d heard about Phoenix when he first lived in Kalamazoo and knew it only as a place for students with troubled backgrounds, such as expulsions.
“But, it’s totally not like that,” he said. “There are some kids who have been through things who are really smart there. It’s like a second chance. They’re able to focus on you more because it’s smaller. And, the teachers are really good.”
The school also does a good job supporting students academically and emotionally, Hernandez said. He found it easy to make connections with teachers and the principal, Mark Hill. And, he especially appreciated a program that taught the students breathing exercises and meditation, which helped him deal with his anxiety and depression.
He also said Grade Point, the online credit recovery program, helped him easily make up classes. He’s proud of himself for graduating, but he says he couldn’t have done it without his family’s support, like his sisters Gabriella Ray and Carmen Miranda, his uncle Ricardo Ramierez and his brother Luis Hernandez, who live in California. His friends helped too: Wyatt Messenger and Zo Jonker at Kalamazoo Central, and Andrew Russon at Phoenix.
“I always knew I could do it,” he said. “I just didn’t do it the last time around. Now, I’m doing things right and taking my time.”