New Citizen’s Raven Story Moves Crowd to Tears

Some on campus know Arturo Hernandez from seminary. Others have seen him work on the kitchen staff at the college. Those who attended the 2022 Scholarship Ball fundraiser for Benedictine College in Atchison, Kansas, know him as the student speaker who told them “Paliente, siempre paliente,” describing what that means to him. Watch his speech here or below. The text of his speech follows.

It is through God’s providence, and your generosity, that I am here today. I was born in Veracruz, Mexico on a very small farm. My family was very poor, but what we lacked in material things abounded in love, faith, and hope. Ever since I came to Benedictine I often think of my family’s humble beginnings, and I also think of my father. There is one particular story with him that often comes to mind.

One late afternoon I was running some errands with my father. We were going from our small farm to the nearest town, about 20 miles or so, our only means of transportation at the time was either our horse, Estrella, or bicycles. That day we decided to use our bikes.

On the way there my father and I were bike racing. I was about 6 years old or so, and somehow I was winning. I started to suspect he was letting me win on purpose. I was getting upset with him. I don’t know if you have ever been six years old, but bike racing is serious business for a kid that age!

So, I kept looking back to see if he was even trying. And then, suddenly, with a very firm voice, he looked me straight in the eyes and gave me some words of wisdom that I have kept close to my heart ever since.

And today I will share those words with you, but first let me tell you why Benedicitne College is so dear to my heart.

I first came to Benedictine on the fall of 2019. At the time I was looking for a college; 1. With high academic standards. 2. With a good sense of community. 3. And it had to Catholic…

I looked and looked, and I could not find the right one. I finally found Benedictine! But it did not meet my expectations, Benedictine actually went far beyond what I was looking for! The added bonus was the generous scholarships I received, thanks to these I was able to accomplish my dream of attending this wonderful school.

Academically, Benedictine has definitely challenged me, but every single one of my professors have been so kind, patient, and generous with their time. At Benedictine, your professors welcome you into their classrooms by name, and they also pray for you by name. If you are looking for a school that is academically easy, then I do not recommend Benedictine. This school has high academic standards, but our professors will not let you fail. The love that they show not only towards the art of teaching, but also the love that they show to every single one of their students is truly extraordinary. My hope is to bring this passion into my own classroom one day.

Apart from being known for its high academic standards, Benedictine is also known for its community. Here you can pray the rosary every Wednesday morning with President Minnis and you can even get set up on dates by the first lady! Now you know where to go, ladies.

Alumni, think back to your time at Benedictine, what is the one thing that comes to mind? I hope that it is the people you met here that became your friends and eventually your family. Benedictine is truly a family, not just on campus, but beyond it.

Just last semester I was nominated to go to Washington, DC to attend a leadership event sponsored by members of Congress. The first night there I was wearing a shirt with a small Benedictine logo, and I cannot tell you the number of people that recognize it! The first words of the first person that came up that night were; “Would you like to go to Mass with me tomorrow morning?” Which brings me to my next point.

Benedictine is catholic not just in name, but in practice as well! Pope Emeritus, Benedict VXI once said that “A good school provides a rounded education for the whole person. And a good Catholic school, over and above this, should help all its students to become saints.”

And that is precisely what Benedictine does, it provides its students with all the necessary tools to achieve this goal. You can count on anyone to help you in your faith journey; from the monks and sisters to the great ministry team, from the professors to the coaches, from the librarian to the lady that works in admissions, literally anyone is there to help you in your faith journey.

My own faith journey has been forged by many difficulties. My father passed away when I was still a child leaving behind a crying mother and four children — all under the age of nine. Ever since my father passed our family has struggled to survive. After my fathers passing my family moved to the states, and we had to start from zero, my siblings and I had to find new friends, learn a new language and a new culture, everything was new to us.

But with God’s grace we have been able to overcome many difficulties. Since I moved to the United States I have traveled to many parts of the world, I learned English, (I’m still learning) and every single one of my siblings has graduated from high school and are citizens of the United States or are in the process of becoming one. I myself just became a citizen last year and currently in the process of applying for Officer Candidate School in the United States Marine Corps.

But I would not be standing in front of you today if it wasn’t for a very special person. A woman that has never given up even when all the odds were against her, a woman that has fearlessly fought for her children, so that they could have a better life than she did, a woman that at times had three jobs and only slept a few hours a night, all for the sake of her children.

Many know her by her legal name, Maria Villa. I have the honor and privilege of calling her “mami.” Ladies and gentlemen, my mother.

What has kept my family strong in the midst of many difficultis? Simple, our love for God, Our Lady of Guadalupe, our love for each other, and the words that my father shared with me that late afternoon.

So, we were riding our bikes, and I kept looking back, he finally stopped me and said, “Stop looking back! If you keep looking back you are going to fall and hurt yourself. Keep your eyes facing forward. Palante, siempre palante! Forward always forward.”

Through your generosity, people like me can fulfill their American dream. Through your generosity, I will be the first in the family to graduate from college. Through your generosity, my mother’s dreams will be realized in me.

So, tonight I say to every single one of you, on behalf of my mother and me, Gracias! Thank you! And remember forward, always forward!

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Benedictine College

Founded in 1858, Benedictine College is a Catholic, Benedictine, residential, liberal arts college located on the bluffs above the Missouri River in Atchison, Kansas. The school is proud to have been named one of America’s Best Colleges by U.S. News & World Report as well as one of the top Catholic colleges in the nation by First Things magazine and the Newman Guide to Choosing a Catholic College. It prides itself on outstanding academics, extraordinary faith life, strong athletic programs, and an exceptional sense of community and belonging. It has a mission to educate men and women within a community of faith and scholarship.