Elizabeth Fernandez (left) with children Jackson '18 and Walker, and husband Joe '90.


Why I Give: Elizabeth and Joe Fernandez ’90

For the Fernandez family, North Carolina School of Science and Math is a family affair. Spanning two generations, Joe ‘90,  his brothers, Michael ‘90 and Andrew ‘95, and currently Joe’s son, Jackson ‘18, have each gotten to experience NCSSM. “I had always pointed out the exit on I-85 whenever we drove by, but had not really thought about if Jackson might be interested in attending,” Joe says. “It was not until after my 25th reunion in 2015, that we discussed the possibility of Jackson applying. He was really excited to apply!”

Both Elizabeth and Joe feel strongly how wonderful NCSSM has been for Jackson, providing him opportunities to explore a vast number of specialized offerings, meet other students from across the state, and take advantage of the community that surrounds campus, they say. “We stayed up all night playing cards, not texting or on our phones,” says Joe. “But now, thanks to technology, Jackson can Uber over to Chapel Hill for a lacrosse game,” he laughs as he recalls having to use a pay phone to call home.

Joe attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, where he met Elizabeth, prior to attending law school at Wake Forest University. In 1999, Joe and Elizabeth moved to Charlotte where Joe accepted a job with Moore & Van Allen, PLLC, a role he says has been supported by the experiences he had while a student at NCSSM. “I am a corporate lawyer for energy companies. My NCSSM background really helps,” says Joe.

Jackson, a current senior, has chosen a different path, gravitating towards engineering, and enjoying the time he spends in the Fabrication Lab. Elizabeth shared her son’s excitement about his classes in the coming year, saying, “He will be taking a circuits class and a biomedical engineering class. Those are not classes offered everywhere in high school.” In addition to exploring this passion in the classroom, Jackson will also be serving as a teaching assistant in the FabLab. “It coordinates with his professional goals and it is a hobby that he loves as he can learn and be creative,” says Elizabeth.

The Fernandez family gives in support of the Greater Challenge Fund. Gifts to the Greater Challenge Fund allow NCSSM the greatest flexibility to support the school’s needs, and invests in NCSSM’s core. “We recognized the need, but also the level of opportunity these student have while they are here,” says Elizabeth. “Academics are wonderful, but they are only half of the experience.”

Her son, she says, has grown not just in his academics, but has also become more open-minded as he has forged relationships with students from diverse backgrounds, different cultures, and other parts of the state. Much of this growth happens outside of the classroom, through extracurriculars, athletics, clubs and events, even hall activities. “We want other parents to realize your dollars really help support the other half of the experience,” says Elizabeth. “The benefits your child will receive from participating at NCSSM will provide a lifetime impact.”

“Every donor’s situation is different,” says Joe, “but we hope all parents will join us and make a gift, no matter the size, to help support the whole student experience.”

Join the Fernandez family today by making your gift to the Greater Challenge Fund.