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First-Generation Student and Navy Veteran Finds Success at UA Little Rock

Bryan Hernandez while on duty with the U.S. Navy.
Bryan Hernandez while on duty with the U.S. Navy.

After spending six years in the U.S. Navy, Bryan Hernandez, a first-generation college student from Clinton, Arkansas, has found success as a marketing major and storyteller at UA Little Rock, a skill he hopes to use after graduation to highlight the Latinx culture.

Hernandez joined the Navy a year after graduating from the Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences, and the Arts in Hot Springs.

“It was definitely something I considered since I was a kid, but it became more realistic my senior year of high school,” Hernandez said. “I am the first in the family to join the military. It was a very new experience for myself and my family. It definitely helped my parents not having to pay for college. It has its challenges, but it definitely provided some stability and security that I wouldn’t have had otherwise.”

Hernandez served as a SONAR technician. He analyzed real-time data to search for, track, and engage submarines. Since no one serving on a naval vessel has just one job, as Hernandez pointed out, he also assisted the public affairs director with photographing events and managing social media accounts.

Hernandez confirmed that he sated his appetite for travel during his time in the Navy. He traveled to places like Barbados, Norway, Scotland, Portugal, Spain, Nova Scotia, Guantanamo Bay, and Panama.

“I think the most beautiful place was the Norwegian Sea,” he said. “It was crazy to look out in the distance and see snow-capped mountains. This is what made me want to join. I thought it was pretty cool to go to sea and see different ports.”

In 2021, Hernandez left the Navy ready to earn his college degree. The pandemic played a factor, making Hernandez realize that he was ready to transition out of the military and spend more time with his family. Having already completed many college credits through concurrent enrollment classes in high school, Hernandez resumed his college career at UA Little Rock with high hopes for the future.

“Coming here and realizing there are so many other nontraditional students and veterans made it feel like the right choice,” Hernandez said. “The fact that it’s a Yellow Ribbon School means I know my education will be completely covered here. The familiarity with Arkansas and being close to Little Rock and my family, I couldn’t beat it. UA Little Rock feels like home. They have a commitment to first-generation students and veterans. That is more aligned with what I believe in. If that’s not what higher education is about, then what is it about?”

Since joining UA Little Rock last year, Hernandez has kept busy as a student ambassador with the School of Business, assistant editor of The Forum student newspaper, and the social media coordinator for the Military Student Success Center.

“I am so grateful to have a center like this on campus. I think that has been the most impactful program in terms of my transition from the military to UA Little Rock,” Hernandez said. “Being around other students who are going through the same thing is a huge support system that I was not counting on. A lot of the concerns I had; I realized a lot of the other veterans had too. Working through those fears with other veterans on campus is pretty big.”

Hernandez will graduate from UA Little Rock during the spring 2024 semester with a Bachelor of Business Administration in Marketing degree. His goal is to promote storytelling for the Latinx community.

“Ultimately, I’d like to contribute to storytelling for Latinx people who aren’t represented as much,” he said. “I find there are a lot of stories that are being missed out on. There are some misconceptions about what it means to be Latinx that could be corrected. There’s a lot of good stories about who we are.”