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Smoky Hill student receives scholarship to pursue a career in education

Jose Luis Peredo Hernandez.Communication comes easily to Jose Luis Peredo Hernandez.

The 18-year-old Smoky Hill High School senior is adept at toggling between different languages; he’s developed a remarkable skill for opening channels of communication between individuals from different cultures and backgrounds. He’s fluent in English and Spanish, and over the past four years, his studies at Smoky Hill have included high-level Japanese courses.

Through these separate languages and idioms, Peredo Hernandez sees the potential to positively impact his friends, family and community.

“I love learning about other people’s values and perspectives, and language is a way to do that,” he said. “It’s an important skill; I like helping people communicate, and I feel like I can really make a difference by translating.”

He’s had plenty of real-world experience in developing this talent. The eldest son of Mexican immigrants, Peredo Hernandez spent his childhood translating for his family and for his community. At parent/teacher conferences, school events and even at everyday interactions at the grocery store, he acted as a bridge between two worlds. Whether it was translating for his parents, his younger siblings or helping strangers at the Dollar Store interact with clerks, Peredo Hernandez spent his early years developing a talent for communication, connection and empathy.

“Everyone in my family has worked hard my entire life. We’ve always lived paycheck to paycheck, and I’ve always translated for parent/teacher conferences and other school events,” he said, adding that these experiences have given him a different perspective on everyday communication. “I feel like I’m more sensitive to what people want to vocalize,” he added, recalling experiences like helping a Spanish-speaking customer at the Dollar Store communicate with a clerk, “If people have trouble, I feel like I can help them communicate without shame or guilt.”

As he nears his graduation from Smoky Hill, Peredo Hernandez wants to develop that skill to positively impact his community on an even deeper level. He will head to the University of Colorado Denver in the fall to pursue a career in teaching. Specifically, he wants to teach math, and he wants to do it at Smoky Hill High School.

“Math is a language that we can all speak if we have the proper direction,” he said. “As the child of immigrants … if I can help students like me have an equal standing with their peers, I feel like I can help my community. As a math teacher here at Smoky Hill, I feel like I could really help.”

That passion for communication and for education recently earned Paredo Hernandez the Dr. Monte Moses Inspiring Future Educators Scholarship from the Cherry Creek Schools Foundation. The annual financial award is designed to assist CCSD students who are pursuing a teacher licensure program at a Colorado college or university.

CCSF officials said that Peredo Hernandez earned the scholarship not only because of his track record of hard work and his passion for education, but also because of his generosity. The scholarship was designed for students like him, they said, students who have a clear commitment to making their world a better place.

“When we think about an educator, we want someone who is going to be able to do all the work that is necessary to teach and inspire, which is Jose’s passion,” said Charles Gilford III, a CCSF Board Member who interviewed Peredo Hernandez during the application process. “He has such a noble heart, such a selflessness about him – those qualities are what we look for in our educators, and that is exactly who Jose is, and what he embodies.”

Peredo Hernandez’s everyday schedule speaks to that commitment and caring. On a typical weekday, he wakes up at 7:15 a.m., attends school until around 3 p.m., and uses the short time he has before work begins to help his siblings with their homework, eat a bit and maybe catch a short nap. At 5 p.m., he reports to work as a custodian, a job he shares with his father that often stretches until 11 p.m. All of the homework he has for his high-level classes has to be completed after he gets home.

It's a brutal schedule, one that demands expert time-management skills and an unfailing commitment. But Peredo Hernandez insists that his time in CCSD, which began at Mission Viejo Elementary School, has helped prepare him for the demands of the moment. Between the skills he picked up in the AVID program, the talent he’s developed as a translator and the academic acumen he’s acquired in advanced courses, he’s able to deal with a set of demands that would make most adults blanche.

Peredo Hernandez’s future goals also help him persist through the most challenging days, as does his underlying dedication to his siblings, his parents, his grandparents and the entire Smoky Hill family.

“As the oldest, it’s my duty to help my parents and my family. It’s my job to help them out – they’ve given me so much,” he said. “This scholarship is a kind of validation. The district sees something in me; this award means that they think I can do something in the future. I want to live up to that standard. I want to teach here.”

-- Posted 5/4/21 at 11:30 AM