Luis Hernandez looks out the window on the train to Metropolitan State University of Denver for his afternoon class after finishing an early morning work shift. With hopes of earning a college degree and becoming a dentist, he dreams of one day owning a house with a big kitchen and living room for him and his family to live in.

Disparities and Dreams

In Colorado, fewer than half of Hispanic men go to college. And when they do attend, just 41% graduate. These statistics, driven by myriad barriers, lead to massive disparities in education and income for Hispanic men.

"The brothers', Luis and Jimy Hernandez, divergent paths highlight the challenges Hispanic men face getting into college - and in getting through," writes reporter Jason Gonzalez.

Photographed for Chalkbeat

The topic of that afternoon's class, Trauma Informed Care, was resilience. Luis writes the word down in his notes.

Jimy Hernandez's work boots and jug sit in the garage after the day’s work. In high school, while applying to college was suggested, he didn't get any practical help with it like his brother did, and didn't know where to begin. “To be honest, counselors really helped out more, like, the honors students and all that."

Luis helps his mother with work at her station. Mariela helped him get the job to pay for his education at Metropolitan State University of Denver. “My dream has always been for my children to have a better life than what I had,” Mariela said. “I want them to grow up and do what they love — not to have to work as much as I do. I want them to have a beautiful life.”

Luis and his mother wait in their car for the ink and toner cartridge factory to open for their work shifts.

Luis sits ready to take notes in class. Even when Hispanic men make it to college, just 41% graduate at Colorado’s public four-year universities. But with his family behind him, a Pathways to Possible success coach and a time management seminar, Luis feels prepared to keep up with his packed schedule.

Luis walks on campus at Metropolitan State University of Denver. He’s gotten support through the college process through the Pathways to Possible program for underserved students. Like his brother, he wouldn’t have gone to college, he thinks, if it weren’t for the new program. However, the program only has 80 slots, not nearly enough to face the massive racial disparities in the college system.

From left, Mariela and Jaime Hernandez eat dinner with their two older sons, Jimy and Luis, after a long day of work at their home in Denver. Mariela and Jaime immigrated to the United States from Zacatecas, Mexico so their children would have better educational and economic opportunities than they did.

Jimy yawns as he relaxes on the couch after a long day of work. He hopes his younger brothers, in photos at right, get the help they may need to pursue college, he says.

Luis watches the news as his mother, Mariela Hernandez, cleans the kitchen before the two leave for work at an ink and toner cartridge factory. Luis works the early shift before the day’s classes so he can afford to go pay tuition.

Luis does homework and Jimy rests on the couch after work. “It’s sad that he didn’t get to go to college because he really wanted to go,” said Luis about his brother.


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