Navarro College has celebrated 11 years of "Brilliance," offering over 1,100 scholarships to dual and general education students in Ellis County.

The Brilliance Scholarship Fundraiser began in 2009 to dedicate educational opportunities to students through financial support.

During the annual scholarship fundraiser, Navarro raised over $188,000 through a live auction. The black-tie event was hosted at the Midlothian Conference Center on April 6.

Students who have received this scholarship were recognized at the event and even ushered attendees and visited with the guests. One student, who was unable to be honored with a standing ovation, was Anthony Hernandez, as he was busy working that evening.

And work is not a foreign concept for the 19-year-old who paid for his first semester up front in cash.

“To pay for my semester, I actually worked two full-time jobs over the summer,” Hernandez explained. “I got up at six in the morning and wouldn’t get home until 12 or one at night. So I got very little sleep through the entire summer.”

He continued, “One full-time job would go straight to my savings account, and the other one would be what I lived off of. College is very, very hard to save up for. When I swiped my debit card at that office, I was so emotional. I was so proud to pay for my first semester of college all on my own out of pocket.”

Hernandez is in his second semester of school at Navarro College in Waxahachie and currently serves as the campus vice president for student government. The young man has exhibited responsibility to ensure he continues education by working two jobs to pay for tuition out of pocket.

When he approached the registrar’s office, he was so proud of his accomplishment that he even took a selfie with Mellie Sibley, the head cashier.

But that feeling quickly vanished once Hernandez realized he was short $600 to purchase textbooks. He noticed a flyer in the hallway for the Brilliance scholarship, which noted that general education students were eligible. After applying, Navarro fully funded the books.

“When I got that scholarship, I thought, ‘Well since that scholarship came from the community, I need to give back,'" he said. "One thing that I do is Meals on Wheels every Friday in Waxahachie. If the community gave me money, I might as well serve some way.”

The 2018 Plainview High graduate grew up in a single-parent household with his younger brother, who also aspires to continue his education. Hernandez is a first-generation college student and was inspired by his grandmother and mother’s work ethic to study business in the hopes of owning his own franchise.

“I saw that if she can do that, then I can do something in the business industry and that makes me proud,” Hernandez expressed. “Her and my grandma are definitely a role model for what I’m doing now.”

His mother worked her way up at the Walmart Distribution Center from an associate to the manager of human resources.

Hernandez currently works two part-time jobs as a customer service representative for the drug store department at HEB in Waxahachie, as well as at Chick-fil-A in Red Oak. He is also on track to graduate with his associate’s degree in business and administration in May 2020. He plans to continue his education at Texas Tech University to one day obtain a master’s degree in business.

Another student significantly impacted by the Brilliance scholarship program is Nicole Dickerson, a 2017 Ennis High School graduate with a dream to give back to her hometown through the power of education.

“When you come from a bigger family that doesn’t have the extra income, scholarships like this make it possible for students like me to continue our education,” Dickerson expressed. “Scholarships like this really mean a lot.”

Dickerson, 20, is one of four siblings that was adopted from separate families and relies on scholarship funds to continue her schooling.

“My siblings are fairly younger than me. One of them is 11, one of them is 8, and the other is 6 years old,” Dickerson elaborated. “I’m the first generation to go to college in my family, so they are the ones that I’m leading an example for. They are the reason I do what I do.”

The Brilliance scholarship awarded $500 toward tuition and fees. Dickerson is a full-time student and is required to complete 16 hours of observation a semester as her degree is in education. She plans to become a second-grade teacher in Ennis ISD and eventually study to become a principal.

The opportunities provided by Navarro will allow Dickerson to walk in May and she plans to attend Texas A&M University-Commerce in Corsicana.

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Ashley Ford | @aford_news | 469-517-1450