Gateway Program Participant

In less than ten years, Alexander Hernandez went from not speaking English, to his dream job at Google.

When Alexander Hernandez came to the U.S. from Guatemala in 2011, he knew he wanted to learn English first – so he started taking free English as a Second Language classes at Truman College. Once he had mastered the language, he moved on to the Gateway Program, which helps new college credit students with extra supports and tuition assistance. The more classes he took, the more he honed in on a career in engineering.

“I have always been interested in science and technology, even as a small child, so I knew following a path in engineering would allow me to follow my passion,” Alexander explained.

And follow it he did. While taking credit classes at both Truman College and Wright College, he was introduced to summer science and engineering research opportunities at Princeton University and in the Czech Republic. After learning more about the opportunities, he applied to both – and was accepted to both.

“If I hadn’t heard about those opportunities – I think my path would have been different. Those opportunities really opened doors for me,” he said.

His next steps included getting accepted to the University of Illinois – Urbana –Champaign where he graduated with a Bachelor’s in Engineering in June of 2018. In his last semester there, he landed an internship at Caterpillar that led to a full-time position as an engineer. He spent two years at Caterpillar working on car control systems, loving his job and learning a lot. But when an opportunity came to work at Google, he knew he couldn’t pass it up. Now, he works at Google as an embedded software engineer.

After all he has done, he is still grateful for his time at City Colleges, saying “I would thank everyone at City Colleges who made this possible – thank you for opening doors for non-traditional students and to students who are new to the country. I learned a whole new language and the culture – all for free. I was then able to continue on to credit classes because it was affordable and the classes were flexible. I was completely prepared for engineering classes at UIUC. I wouldn’t be where I am without the ESL classes, the Gateway classes, and the credit classes I took at CCC.”