First-generation college graduate says Nepantla Program ‘saved my life’

Jessy Hernandez looks out the window of his new apartment and remembers his life across the street.

As a child, he and his parents lived in a van for a week in an Albertson’s parking lot at Boulder Highway and Tropicana Avenue.

Hernandez, 22, graduated from Nevada State College on May 5 with a degree in interdisciplinary studies.

“It was difficult at first,” Hernandez said. “I’m not an above-and-beyond type of student. I was someone who didn’t care about school much at first. When it came to the point to go to college, I was like, ‘What am I going to do with my life?’”

Hernandez is a first-generation college graduate. His mom and dad emigrated from Mexico. Hernandez is also the first on his dad’s side to graduate from high school.

He had planned to attend the College of Southern Nevada before Nevada State College reached out to him to see if he would join the new created Nepantla Program in 2012.

Hernandez was in the first graduating class of the Nepantla Program, which helps first-generation college students transistion from high school by providing lessons in community outreach, leadership and cultural awareness.

According to the program’s website, Nepantla is a term from the Aztec language Nahuatl — meaning “in-between” or “torn between worlds.”

There are 21 students enrolled in the program, and Hernandez is one of the six who graduated May 5, according to Leilani Carreno, the program’s director.

“We just find that there’s this kind of third space that Nepantla will be,” said Dr. Leila Pazargadi, the program’s founder. “We try to make it a home-away-from-home environment, or a network for students who may not have a firm place academically when they start.”

Hernandez was born in San Fernando, California, and his family moved to Southern Nevada when he was about 6. His parents moved to get him out of the “slums of Hollywood,” Hernandez said.

“(Graduation) is more of a bigger deal for (my mom) than it is for me, just for the fact that where I grew up before in the past, we tried to get away from that,” he said. “They moved to Las Vegas to give me a better opportunity.”

Hernandez plans to take a year off before applying for UNLV’s master’s program for social work. While an undergraduate at NSC, he interned with Clark County, serving as a counselor for at-risk middle- and high-school students.

He wants to use this time out of school to gain more social-work experience.

“Nepantla helps us identify who we are,” he said. “This program saved my life.”

Contact Danny Webster at or call 702-477-3834. Follow @DannyWebster21 on Twitter.

Construction for new 51s ballpark underway
New home of the Las Vegas 51s is planned to be finished by March 2019 in Summerlin according to team president Don Logan. (Marcus Villagran/Review-Journal) @brokejournalist
Underground home was built as Cold War-era hideaway
The underground house at 3970 Spencer Street is one of the valley’s most unusual homes built 26 feet underground in 1978 by Girard “Jerry” B. Henderson, who, planned to survive the end of the world there.
Lip Smacking Foodie Tours takes you where the locals go
Donald Contursi talks about Lip Smacking Foodie Tours, which offers walking tours of restaurants on and off Las Vegas Boulevard with food samples and tidbits of history about the places they visit.
Bump stock manufacturers under fire
The Justice Department said last month that it had started the process to amend federal firearms regulations to clarify that federal law defines bump stocks as machine guns.
Art Bell’s Top 10 Shows
A selection of radio host Art Bell’s most popular shows.
Longtime Las Vegas attorney John Momot dies at age 74
Criminal defense attorney John Momot, who represented mob figures and even played himself in the movie “Casino,” has died.
David Copperfield in court after man injured during magic trick
The attorney for a British man who is suing illusionist David Copperfield said his client suffered serious injuries after being called on stage during Copperfield's show at MGM Grand.
5 things connecting Las Vegas and Marilyn Monroe
1. Marilyn Monroe, known then as Norma Jeane, obtained her first divorce in Las Vegas at the age of 20 on September 13, 1946. 2. According to some biographers, Monroe lived at 604 S. 3rd Street for four months during the summer of 1946. The house has since been torn down and is now the site of a parking lot. 3. In 1954, Monroe almost married Joe DiMaggio in Las Vegas but the wedding was called off last minute. The wedding was to be held at the Hotel El Rancho Vegas which was located on the southwest corner of Sahara Avenue and Las Vegas Boulevard. 4. Las Vegas has at least one road dedicated to the star. Marilyn Monroe Avenue is located in east Las Vegas and intersects with Betty Davis Street and Cary Grant Court. 5. There are currently more than 20 Marilyn Monroe impersonators for hire in the Las Vegas Valley.
Sir Richard Branson announces purchase of Hard Rock Hotel
Sir Richard Branson, founder of the Virgin Group, has acquired the Hard Rock Hotel with partners and plans to turn it into a Virgin-branded property by the end of 2019.
3 Centennial High School students killed in Calif. crash (Full)
Three Centennial High School students were killed Thursday morning in Southern California when their vehicle was struck by a suspected drunken driver while they were enjoying their spring break, according to a family member of one of the victims.
Retail Restroom Sexual Assault Suspect
Las Vegas police are asking for help finding a man they said groped a woman in a south Las Vegas Valley restroom. (Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department)
Calvary Christian Learning Academy, “There was no fair warning.”
Samantha O’Brien, whose three-year-old daughter attended the Calvary Christian Learning Academy daycare, found out Monday night when her daughter’s teacher called about the school closing.
News Headlines
Local Spotlight
Home Front Page Footer Listing
You May Like

You May Like