Freshmen Adrian Hernandez and Will LaBoon just finished decorating their dorm room at Texas Christian University by hanging up a white and purple Hypnotoad flag on the wall.
They were two of the thousands of college students moving into on-campus housing on Aug. 16 at TCU, Texas Wesleyan University and the University of Texas at Arlington. However, Hernandez wasn’t sure he’d be able to attend TCU because of his grades and cost — until his roommate’s family guided and set him on the path to achieving his dream.
“They were the ones who got me into TCU. I didn’t really know much about the university,” Hernandez said.
Hernandez and LaBoon come from different sides of Fort Worth. Hernadez grew up in the Historic Southside, while LaBoon lived in the southwest part of the city. The two friends met through their love for theater. They performed at Kids Who Care, a theater arts youth program in Fort Worth.
“Since then, we just pretty much been hooked and have stayed friends,” Hernadez said.
The duo went to the school together until third grade but always kept in touch. The LaBoon family often invited Hernandez to TCU football and basketball games, exposing him to the university and its culture.
“After going to one game, I fell in love,” Hernadez said.
When college decision time came, the friends weren’t sure if they both could attend TCU.
LaBoon is a third-generation TCU student. Both his parents went to TCU. But his grades during high school weren’t the best, he says, meaning it would be a toss-up when it came to being accepted into the university.
“TCU isn’t like it was when we were here. It’s much more academic. It’s more challenging,” LaBoon’s mother, Jennifer LaBoon, said.
After TCU deferred him in November, LaBoon reapplied. A few months later, he was accepted into TCU.
“I don’t think I’ve celebrated as hard for anything,” he said.
Grades weren’t the issue for Hernandez — finances were.
Hernandez’s top choice was TCU but because it costs roughly $57,130 to attend the private school, Texas State University was his backup plan. Hernandez made sure to finish his senior year of high school with grades good enough to earn him a full ride.
Being a first-generation college student, Hernandez needed help with the college application process. Jennifer LaBoon stepped in to help.
She made sure that Hernandez filled out all his financial aid forms on time and that his parents’ information on them was correct.
Jennifer LaBoon did a better job at preparing them for the application process than most high school counselors, her son said.
Hernadez’s mother, Ana Hernadez, was thankful for the LaBoon family and the kindness they showed to her family.
“We didn’t go to college, so she held our hand,” Ana Hernadez said. “I’m very grateful that I had somebody to help us through this process because he’s first generation [to attend college].”
During a summer trip to Chicago with friends, Hernandez received an email from TCU saying it was awarding him a full-ride scholarship. He immediately messaged his mom.
Ana Hernandez was shocked and asked her son to send a screenshot to Jennifer LaBoon to ask if this would be enough aid to go to the private university.
Jennifer LaBoon laughed and responded with a simple, “Yeah.”
As a first-generation college student, Hernadez feels the weight of his family’s expectations on his shoulders.
“They’re expecting great things from me,” Hernadez said.
LaBoon is studying political science, while Hernadez is majoring in health fitness science. Both are ready to begin their academic journey when classes start Aug. 21.
Juan Salinas II is a reporting fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.