Jazlyn Rodriguez Hernandez is more student than athlete, more female than football player and certainly more budding entrepreneur than quarterback.
But the former Mullen Mustang, Class of 2019, will be combining both of the above references this weekend in hopes of winning as much as six figures toward her college tuition and propelling her into becoming the business woman and difference-maker she craves to be into her adult life.
And she said her days at Mullen helped her with the opportunity.
“I’m super-excited,” she said by telephone from Texas.
Now a freshman at TCU, Rodriguez Hernandez has made her way into the Dr. Pepper Tuition Giveaway. She is one of 20 finalists, one of four from the Big 12 Conference. There are 16 others from the Atlantic Coast, Big Ten, Pac 12 and Southeastern conferences. At each of the sites, which will host conference championship games, groups of four competitors will have opportunities to throw 30 footballs in 30 seconds through an opening in a giant Dr. Pepper can on Friday. The top two will advance to a finals round on Saturday at halftime of a championship game.
In Rodriguez Hernandez’s case, she’ll be in Arlington, Texas, at AT&T Stadium, home of the Dallas Cowboys, for the Baylor-Oklahoma title game. She already has earned $2,500 and said she’d love to advance to the final, guarantee herself $25,000 and have a shot at the $100 grand.
Rodriguez Hernandez said she “came across the contest when I was looking for a scholarship last year, but I was too late to apply. I was late on everything and I knew I had to do it while I was in school to help pay the debt.”
The contest’s entry task was to detail how she could change the world. Through video, her goal was how she wanted to break the generational curse of poverty. She has seen and heard of family after family continuing to struggle financially, particularly minorities, including her own. But by beginning a business involving young people, she hopes to give those in need significant chances at improvement.
“They would have business skills and a Christian foundation for those who want to better themselves,” Rodriguez Hernandez said.
Her days at Mullen helped her prepare to deliver a presentation for the contest as well as to work toward becoming a giving business owner.
“I would say Mullen was definitely a culture shock,” she said. “Being around so many students, it was normal for them. They all went to college. It wasn’t for me where I was coming from. But once I was in there and understood the reality and how possible it was to go to higher education and do more …
“It was harder to do the same things that other students did. I couldn’t afford trips or participate in some things. I couldn’t pay for it. I was struggling to pay anything and it frustrated me. I thought, ‘Why is it that way?’ Minorities are always struggling, but not here at Mullen. It opened my eyes how different it was.”
And it taught her how to handle herself.
“Mullen really helped me not be bitter about it and helped empower me,” she said. “With all of the core principles and the educators who were supportive of me, I wasn’t upset with those. All these people were always helping me and pushing me. They saw something in me. It was different, but they saw potential in me.
“I wish other students like me could experience it. I just took a risk to go there. We put that Leap of Faith in front of me and God did provide.”
Now, she hopes to provide herself a shot at the top prize in the Dr. Pepper contest. Measurements were sent to her, the school funded a sort of replica target and Rodriguez Hernandez appears ready.
“I’ve practiced with one of the TCU players,” she said.