As a child, Rafael Hernandez did not expect much out of life. “I always imagined myself being a detective or undercover police officer,” he says. “I even contemplated the possibility of going to law school, but never imagined that I would go to college. I grew up in a very low-income home, so everything I wanted to do was just a thought, a child’s imagination.”
Growing up in both Puerto Rico and New Jersey, the goal was simply to finish high school. Unfortunately, that was not to be. Rafael would eventually move to Greenville, South Carolina and become a truck driver, and he was even able to buy his own rig. Then, an accident would alter the course of his life. A severe spinal injury led to surgery, which resulted in a blood clot that left him paralyzed from the chest down.
“I had an oxygen machine because the nerve damage I sustained was in the area of the spine that controls your breathing,” says Rafael. “I spent three months in the hospital and two months confined to a bed and wheelchair, relying on others to care for me. It was the lowest time of my life. My trust in God, the support of my family, and my determination to keep fighting was what pushed me to get to where I am today.”
“The professors are understanding and will help to ensure that students not only get the information, but understand it. One of the things I will always treasure about ECPI is how the instructors will take the time with you even after the class is over just to make sure you understand the material so you can be successful. That made a world of difference in my life, especially because of my disability.”Rafael Hernandez, Cybersecurity Graduate,
Where he is today is very different from where he was. Unable to continue his career as a truck driver, Rafael turned to the Greenville Literacy Association to get help earning his GED. “I always told my wife that if I ever got my GED, I was going to go all the way, which meant going to college and earning a degree,” he says. “After doing research and checking out different schools, ECPI University was the only one that made me feel like home. ECPI saw my physical limitations and helped me feel comfortable so that I could concentrate on learning.”
Rafael enrolled in the Cybersecurity program at ECPI University’s Greenville campus and never looked back. “ECPI will go above and beyond to make sure that students feel comfortable,” he says. “The professors are understanding and will help to ensure that students not only get the information, but understand it. One of the things I will always treasure about ECPI is how the instructors will take the time with you even after the class is over just to make sure you understand the material so you can be successful. That made a world of difference in my life, especially because of my disability.”
Today, Rafael is able to walk again unassisted and is now working as an IT Support Technician at Spartanburg Steel Products. He says ECPI University helped make it all possible. “Their connection with major industries in the area also makes it easier to be noticed and, in some instances, you might land your first job even before you graduate,” he says. “Most importantly, I felt ready and confident when I started working in my new career because the course work is thorough, and the instructors are well prepared and knowledgeable in the field.”