As one JCPS student gets ready to start his senior year on Wednesday, he's looking back on a summer he'll never forget. Gil Hernandez was one of 98 young men from around the country selected to spend a week in Washington D.C., calling it the trip of a lifetime.

“It was truly life-changing, it did things for me I never thought were possible,” said Butler High School senior Gil Hernandez.

Hernandez returned from Capitol Hill a few weeks ago, after meeting some pretty high-profile people.

“It's so unbelievable to me, I still don't believe I met him,” says Hernandez.

Hernandez met President Donald Trump in the White House Rose Garden. He got to shake the President’s hand twice.

“Every day I wake up and do what I have to do and then all of a sudden I'm like, 'Did I really meet the President?” says Hernandez.

It’s a reality that his 8-year-old self could have never imagined. Hernandez and his mother left their hometown of Oaxaca, Mexico when he was just a kid, walking for three days through the Sonora Desert until they reached Arizona. He says there were times he didn't think they'd make it.

“Gil's a special individual and Gil has very humble beginnings,” said Jonathan Joseph who teaches the Civics and Government course at Butler High School.

Josephs says he couldn't be prouder of Hernandez and his accomplishments.
“It's important that Gil got to go and that Gil's the face of what I would say is the American dream,” said Joseph.

Hernandez’s trip was part of Boys Nation, a program through the American Legion for students interested in government. Hernandez says he's not sure he'll pursue a full-time career in politics but hopes he can still effect change through his personal experiences.

“My story is something powerful and it's a tool that I have that I need to put to use,” said Hernandez.

From the desert to the White House, Hernandez is a survivor.