"I am happy to be a part of the good things that are happening [in Union City]," said Hernandez.
Sprint PCS, the leader in wireless technology, chose the Union City school district to launch their "Heroes of Technology" contest because of the schools' interest in technology programs.
The contest, which asked high school seniors to design a wireless web page for their school, was designed by the Center for Children and Technology, a division of the Education Development Center, Inc. a national non-profit organization committed to quality education.
Sprint PCS has also agreed to set up two dates on which the students in both schools will be able to attend seminars on how to turn computer science into a career.
The winners are...
One winner from each school received a $1,500 scholarship to be used at the school of their choice. One runner-up from each school was also rewarded at the ceremony.
Shing-Mei Lio of Union Hill High School won the scholarship for her website, which listed important test dates such as the dates for the SATs and PSATs.
"We receive a yearly agenda as students, but we never look at it," said Lio about how she came up with the idea. "But these dates are very important to us."
The Emerson High School winner, Juan Ricort, highlighted the school's technology and summer programs using live graphics on his site.
"I am always making wacky sites on the computer," said Ricort, who has a lot of graphics in his website. "I wanted to make it unique among the others. The live graphics made the site more relaxed and interesting to read."
Ricort has decided to use his scholarship to attend Rutgers University in the fall. Lio, who is still undecided in her college decision, said that she is considering attending St. Peter's College.
Huwaida Hassan of Emerson and Angelino Vasquez of Union Hill were the two runners-up in the contest.
All four winners received a Sprint PCS digital phone and an autographed baseball from Hernandez.
Although Hernandez was on a tight schedule, trying to fit in a doctor's appointment and his game that night (which he must attend despite the injury), Hernandez spent the time to sign autographs for anyone who asked. "He is one of my favorite players," said Ricort, who is also Cuban, about Hernandez. "This was a great treat." "I will keep [the autographed ball] at home with the rest of my Yankee stuff," said Lio. "This is a dream come true."
With all of these fans, Hernandez couldn't help to feel at home. However, this isn't the first time that Hernandez has visited Union City.
"I feel at home here," said Hernandez through Joe Santiago, the sales support manager at Sprint PCS who translated for the Cuban-born pitcher. "It is not only among the Cubans [that I feel at home], but all of the Hispanics in the community."
In 1998, Union City held a parade in Hernandez's honor, after he defected to this country after being thrown out of the Cuban Baseball League.
"I will never forget what they did for me here," said Hernandez.
Hernandez also has a strong working relationship with Sprint PCS. He is also involved in the company's Connect With Kids program. Hernandez teaches children how to pitch and other baseball techniques through this program.
"I am able to return what was taught to me," said Hernandez about working on pitching and other athletic skills with children. "God gave me that power as a professional. I am helping the kids catch up."