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Hernando Middle School student wins national literacy award

Hugo Hernandez 180 Graphic

Hugo Hernandez, a student at SPC. Rafael Hernando III Middle School, is one of only 16 students in the nation to win a prestigious 2019 180 Student Award from learning company Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. The 180 program recognizes children across the United States who have overcome significant obstacles to become thriving, successful learners.

“I’m very happy to have won,” Hernandez said. “I wasn’t good at reading but the Read 180 program helped me a lot, and now I can read very well.”

A medical condition hindered Hernandez’s ability to read at an early age. By the time he entered sixth-grade he had a reading score of zero. Despite his challenges, Hernandez was determined to thrive.

“I never doubted myself,” he said. “I knew that if I kept trying I would be able to read.”

Hernando Middle School reading teacher Brenda Rios said it was his perserverence that helped him succeed and win a System 44 award, one of the awards in the national Read 180 program.

“He came to my class basically a non-reader but doubled his score points in one year … that is remarkable!” Rios said. “He had a strong desire and drive in him that defied his challenges. He knew that where there is a will, there is a way.”

To celebrate his success, the school and Read 180 organization honored Hernandez with a surprise ceremony and breakfast with family and friends.

“I’m so happy about the progress Hugo has made from August to now,” said Laura Marrufo, Hernandez’s mother. “He has come a long way and this has helped him build his self-esteem. I’m grateful because I know this program and his teacher have played a big role in his success.”

Hernandez, who now has a reading score of 167, is passionate about helping others be effective readers.  

“Hugo is sharing what he’s learned with struggling readers who are facing obstacles,” Rios said. “He is always seeking out books in the library, and in his free time, he reads to students with special needs.”

On the list of Hernandez’s favorite reads are the “Goosebumps” series.

“I’ve read three ‘Goosebumps’ books so far,” he said. “I need to read a lot because when I grow up I want to be a doctor, like my dad, and help a lot of people.”

Hernandez is the fourth student at his school to earn a national Read 180 award.

“Read 180 is a strong program that has done amazing things for our kids,” Rios said. “We also have a learning community of parents, our librarian, administrators and district staff who work together to help our students.”

Published May 21, 2019

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