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Higher Education Opens Doors – and Career Opportunities – for a Newly Minted U.S. Citizen

Since arriving in Columbus from the Philippines, a young man is building a rewarding life in his new homeland thanks to the educational offerings he’s found here, and a lot of hard work.

Jan 6, 2023

Jonathan Hernandez discovered Western Governors University Ohio (WGU Ohio) while searching online for a way to advance his education while still working full time.

“It is awesome and very flexible, plus there were good academic advisors,” said Hernandez, who graduated from WGU Ohio this year with a bachelor of science degree in cybersecurity.

“I received five professional certifications that I need for my career.”

Hernandez, 25, a cybersecurity specialist for Liberty Mutual Insurance in Columbus, shared his enthusiasm for the online university when he spoke at WGU’s fall commencement ceremonies. He explained that he had recently become a U.S. citizen and was the first in his family to receive a bachelor’s degree in this country.

When he left the Philippines six years ago to join his father in Columbus, Hernandez said he had hoped to pursue a technical career, but soon realized he would need to improve his communication skills. He worked as a server at a restaurant and later enrolled in Columbus State Community College, where in 2019 he earned an associate of science degree in cybersecurity. 

He was hired as a part-time cybersecurity apprentice at State Auto, then as a full-time employee in January 2020. It was a job he enjoyed, but he also began wondering what the next step in his life would be.

Hernandez determined he needed a bachelor’s degree in order to advance his career, So he enrolled at WGU Ohio in 2021, taking advantage of the school’s affordability and flexible, online learning approach that allowed him to study at his own pace while holding down a full-time job.

Higher education has been transformative force in his life, he said, where the experience he gained while seeking his degrees has led him to serve as a mentor for other students and to work with schools and private companies in the Philippines. In addition, he is giving back to the community by lending his cybersecurity expertise to an IT nonprofit organization.

“When I first came to Columbus some people doubted my skills because of my accent and background,” he said. Initially those remarks were hurtful, he admitted, but the criticism motivated him to continue to improve his education and his life.

‘My career goals are to pursue additional education and experience to help more people,” Hernandez said. “I would like to spread the importance of cybersecurity through the power of teaching and educational seminars.”  He’s also exploring the pursuit of a master’s degree – very likely at WGU Ohio. 

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