Class of 2016: Eyes on the prize


Senior Ismael "Izzy" Hernandez will graduate May 19 from Levine Middle College High School with a full four-year scholarship to Davidson College, where he plans to major in neuroscience. Izzy has been a student in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools since kindergarten. He said he was told at an early age that college was essential to success. He worked towards it with the help of his family, teachers, mentors and peers.

"No one in my family has gone to college. I wanted to be the first," said Izzy. "I wasn't in a position to pay for it but I knew if I worked hard I could earn a scholarship."

Izzy applied to Levine his sophomore year at Phillip O. Berry Academy. Levine is one of three middle-college options offered in CMS. Students take courses required for high school graduation while also taking college courses towards a post-secondary certificate, college transfer, associate's degree and/or industry certification. All Central Piedmont Community College courses are accessible at no charge to the students.

Being on a college campus taught him skills he will need.

"I know how a college schedule works and how to manage my time well. It's prepared me academically and mentally for college," he said. "I've also had more flexibility in my schedule, which allowed me to be involved in campus societies and associations."

School counselor Sheri Simmons said Izzy is a selfless leader.

"His willingness and readiness to help those around him is truly commendable. Peers want to be around him. He truly loves people and they love him," said Simmons. "He is a hard worker and is always the first one to ask what he can do for you."

Photo courtesy of UrbanPromise CharlotteIzzy works part-time at UrbanPromise Charlotte tutoring and mentoring students in grades K-5 afterschool and during the summer.

"I've worked there for three years because I like working with kids," he said. "We provide them with emotional, spiritual and academic support so they can grow into leaders. I plan to continue to work with children as I pursue my medical career."

Jimmy McQuilkin, the UrbanPromise Charlotte founder, sees Izzy's leadership and positive influence at work every day.

"As a StreetLeader, Izzy is a phenomenal servant leader for the younger students he tutors, mentors and teaches every day," said McQuilkin. "They not only dream of becoming a StreetLeader themselves, but they also aspire to emulate the academic success, character and leadership Izzy demonstrates."

Superintendent Ann Clark also took note of Izzy's accomplishments earlier in the year, inviting him to speak at the district's State of Our Schools address in January. Izzy brought one of the fifth-grade students he mentors on stage with him during his speech. 

"Being a part of the State of Our Schools was a great experience," he said. "My time in CMS has helped me grow as a person and I'm grateful for it."

Other CMS graduate stories
​Class of 2016: Videos