Jefferson Awards 2019: Daniel Hernandez

More and more, the research shows that education doesn't just begin and end in the classroom.

That's why KBTX Jefferson Award recipient Daniel Hernandez founded the non-profit Read by Third.

“I wasn't the smartest, and I didn't make the best grades,” said Hernandez, “but I believed that I could do well.”

While Daniel Hernandez is likely being modest about his smarts, he says that confidence is what really mattered—and he got that from his parents.

“[They] encouraged us, and created an environment at school and at home about reading, about studying,” said Hernandez.

Hernandez grew up the youngest of 10 children, the son of an immigrant and a field-laborer.

Not so different from the parents he now helps through Read by Third.

“Our parents—regardless of our background—they can have a dream for their children, and their children can capture that dream,” Hernandez said.

Once a month, local parents in the Read by Third program attend a Saturday program full of “literacy sessions, nutrition sessions, sessions on technology, sessions on relationships,” and more.

The goal? A better environment for their kids, so that the whole family can focus on a child's education.

“Parents are not usually a part of learning and teaching,” Hernandez said, “so we wanted to emphasize that.”

The concept is based on research that says through third grade, kids are learning to read. After that, they're reading to learn.

“If a child cannot read by third grade, they get frustrated,” said Hernandez. “By the fourth, fifth, sixth grade, studies will show that they begin to become disruptive, become problem students, and by the eighth or ninth grade they drop out.”

Hernandez says the research gets even more concerning than that: “Sixty percent of those that fail end up in prison or on welfare.”

These are statistics that Hernandez, a lawyer by trade, spends his free time fighting.

“I don't believe in people saying, ‘Oh they're low-income,’ or ‘They don’t know’—no,” said Hernandez. “They can have those same dreams, given the opportunity and the right set of relationships.”

For more about Read by Third, see the Related Links.

The Jefferson Awards will air on KBTX Thursday, April 18, at 6:30 p.m.