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Kaetlyn Hernandez started ScholarHoops. One of her fundraisers was a 3-on-3 basketball tournament last Saturday at Romeoville Recreation Center. | SUBMITTED PHOTO

The biggest hurdle Kaetlyn Hernandez must clear may be her age.

At 16, she already is an adult in ways that matter. The issue is how others perceive her.

“That’s the thing,” she said. “A lot of people have been shying away because I am a young girl. I think people are unsure how I am going to do things.”

A 5-foot-4 junior who plays guard on the Lockport basketball team and carries a solid B average, Hernandez said she has a family friend who graduated from Romeoville last year and started a foundation in the name of one of his teachers who passed away.

“That gave me an idea,” she said.

So at an age when even the most grounded of high school students are all about taking care of business in the classroom, in the athletic arena and in other personal matters, Hernandez decided she wants to help others as well. Her idea was to form a nonprofit organization that would raise money to provide college scholarships to local basketball players, both girls and boys.

If you are not familiar with her ScholarHoops, you may want to visit www.scholarhoops.com.

“My goal is to raise $12,000 this year and give $2,000 to each of six kids, hopefully, three girls and three boys, to use for the college of their choice,” she said during a break in the 3-on-3 basketball tournament Saturday at Romeoville Recreation Center, one of the ScholarHoops fundraisers.

Hernandez has planned a two-hour basketball fundamentals camp Aug. 31 at Romeoville Recreation Department. That’s the big event.

“We’ll have coaches there from the high school and college levels,” she said. “I’ve been in contact with (former Bulls guard and executive) B.J. Armstrong about being the motivational speaker for the camp. He’s not sure yet if he can work it into his schedule, though.”

The camp is for girls and boys sixth grade through high school senior and costs $25 per participant. Registration forms are available at www.scholarhoops.com. “I’m aiming to get 50 kids there,” Hernandez said.

The scholarship winners will come from among those who attend the camp and will receive the scholarships based on their report cards from the fourth quarter of 2013 and a submitted essay of one to two typed pages covering the importance of education and involvement in sports and how a student balances the two.

The essays must be submitted with the registration forms. They will be reviewed by three board members who will pick the winners.

A grandiose plan, indeed. But raising $12,000 this year?

“The way I plan to do it is through fundraisers, seeking out sponsorships and donations and charging the small fee for the one-day basketball camp,” Hernandez said.

For example, she already has run a bean bag tournament that she said raised $1,400.

The 3-on-3 basketball tournament attracted four varsity, five junior varsity and seven seventh- and eighth-grade girls teams.

“I did expect to get some boys teams,” Hernandez said. “I was upset there weren’t any.

“It’s hard to find the right time to do things. I have a lot to juggle, too, since I’m participating in stuff myself. But I am kind of excited about the turnout here. For my first time, I’m content with how it is all turning out.”

Hernandez said she will have at least one other fundraiser in the summer before the camp Aug. 31.

Endeavors such as this, where organizations are formed to raise scholarship money, have been tried in this area, with varying degrees of success. What makes this unique is it is being managed by an impressive young lady, a 16-year-old high school basketball player.

Hernandez does not rely on star power to attract donations. She has been involved in organized basketball since she was 11 and is on the Lockport team, but she was a reserve last season. She is hoping to get more playing time as a senior.

She also is fighting that age battle. Despite the obstacles, however, she is doing everything she can to compete in the fundraising world.

“I turn to my family for advice,” she said. “My friends think what I am doing is a good thing. My teammates like the idea. My coach at Lockport, Krista Peterson, has been very supportive. She gave a big donation.

“I want to thank her, and I want to say thanks to my parents, James and Vanessa, and my younger sister Emily (who is 12) for their help. Also, I want to thank Noel Maldonado (athletic supervisor for the Romeoville Recreation Department).”

Hernandez grew up in Romeoville before her family moved to Crest Hill, and she spent much of her youth at Romeoville Recreation Center. Now, it is serving as home base for an effort you can’t help but admire.

“This is a lot of work, a real commitment,” Hernandez said. “But in the long run, doing something like this is going to pay off.”

Anyone interested in helping her reach her goal can contact her at kaet96@yahoo.com.

Whether you can help is your call, of course. But don’t shy away just because Hernandez is 16.

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