Isacc Hernandez is in his third year as an academic coach for the Academic Success Center. As a coach, he meets one-on-one with students at all different levels of their college career every day. He also juggles being a professor for Academic Success and Identity, Culture and Community and an administrative faculty member, as well as being part of the Hispanic Serving Institution committee.

“At Goshen, you end up doing multiple things. I try to do most … opportunities, but sometimes when your plate is too full you have to say no,” he said. “I try to grow and connect with parts of campus I may not know as well, and that allows me to know how to help students.”

An Idaho native, Hernandez heard about Goshen College from his aunt, who was the director of GC’s former Center for Intercultural Teaching and Learning program, which aimed to bring first-generation Latino students to college.

“I graduated with a GED. I was kind of not doing good things back in Idaho. My mom and tía were like, ‘you need to do something else, you need to get out of Idaho,’ so I came here in 2008 [when I] had just turned 17,” Hernandez said.

Hernandez had a rocky college experience. He was put on academic probation as a student and got suspended after his first year. He didn’t commit himself to schoolwork, and he resented having to put effort into a degree he didn’t think he needed. “It didn’t quite click that first year,”he said.

But, he said, he didn’t want to be the “statistic you hear about: drugs, death, prison … I got the amazing opportunity that I didn’t see at the time. Over time I realized more and more what college did for me — Goshen, my tía, my mom … [are] one of the main reasons why I have a sense of fulfillment doing this work.”

Being the only Hispanic academic counselor, Hernandez said he can connect with some students on a deeper level. He reiterated the importance of having people who resemble you physically and culturally.

“From a culturally competent level, I can sort of think back on what it was like to not be able to look around and … see myself reflected on campus and how much of a challenge it is to navigate that situation,” he said. “When I was a student in 2008, I think the total percentage of Latinos here was four or five percent. So think about where we are now, you know, 15-16 years later … 35% or around that range.

“I went through it. I learned not just from my experience but from others. How can I take what I learned from first or second-hand experience and try to just make it easier for this next group of students?”

Hernandez has worked with many students in the classroom and through one-on-ones in the ASC. When asked how his work has impacted him, he said, “I get this sense of fulfillment in seeing students find their sense of belonging on campus and find that level of confidence in understanding the academic, social and professional side of this setting.”

Hernandez wants to see improvements in the retention of Hispanic students and a reduction of the challenges they face. “Seeing the talents of so many students we have here, I know they can do so much better than I did.”

The coach ended with some encouragement: “Just a reminder — a semester is 15 weeks, but it goes by quickly. The end of the semester is winding down, so I would just say think about where you are and realistically what you need, and maybe those are questions you can’t answer and we can. Come see us. Every week, every day, every class is important. Come get help with us at the ASC and let us help you finish strong.”