Student ACES: This Never Give Up Day (August 18) we recognize alumni who never gave up

Posted 8/18/22

You may recognize the name Gerald Hearns from the sports headlines.

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Student ACES: This Never Give Up Day (August 18) we recognize alumni who never gave up


You may recognize the name Gerald Hearns from the sports headlines. A William T. Dwyer graduate who played at Florida A&M University and later transferred to Florida Atlantic University to continue his football career as a running back as well as his undergraduate studies focused on business administration and entrepreneurship. NFL hopeful and inspiration to many. What many don’t know about Hearns or recognize about his story is just how many obstacles he overcame to get to where he is today, a construction manager with Florida Power & Light (FPL) and a mentor to many.

This Never Give Up Day (August 18), a day centered around cultivating a mindset of determination which helps us to get through all the difficult challenges that life throws our way, and every day we celebrate Gerald Hearns, as well as many of our other ACES, for never giving up.

Hearns knew violence from a very young age. His little brother ‘s father was murdered in front of his home, body dragged down the street, and his little brother shot. At the age of 9, the fourth oldest in the household at the time, Hearns had a decision to make. He could give up or he could choose to harness his anger and sadness from this devastating and life-altering moment to challenge himself to become a mentor and positive role model for his little brother while also accepting the responsibilities of being the man of the house, still a child himself. For those that know Hearns, they know giving up never factors into his equation. He channeled his disappointment and absolute heartbreak and used it as motivation, often hustling selling candy and snacks to contribute financially and saving up for college while never sacrificing his commitment to training for football. He always had an entrepreneurial spirit.

Along his journey, Hearns found Student ACES, a non-profit organization with the mission to inspire high school student athletes to become men and women of honor, character and integrity through character education programs. It was there that he met Buck Martinez, co-founder of Student ACES and former FPL executive for 35+ years, who he would come to recognize as a role model and who, regardless of what Gerald was facing, would never give up on him.

Through the Student ACES program, Gerald learned the value of integrity, leadership, passion and respect. Throughout college he served as a mentor to many in the Student ACES program as a junior board member. He continued on his journey, and while often pressured and even tempted to stray, he never let his commitment to himself, to his family or to his values waver. Throughout high school and college, Buck and the Martinez family remained a constant in Gerald’s life and, to this day Gerald is still considered the brother in a household of three girls.

Upon graduating college, Gerald was faced with another obstacle. Although an NFL draft prospect (more than an accomplishment to be recognized and applauded – only 1.6% of college football players get drafted), his dreams of playing football would have to be put on hold and a new career prospect identified. Student ACES again played a major factor during a pivotal time in Gerald’s life. It is through the Student ACES program that Gerald was introduced to FPL, Moss Construction, Garcia Development and the world of solar energy. After joining FPL as a Construction Manager, Gerald now had the opportunity to again give back to Student ACES, the organization that had given so much to him, this time by sharing his story, his love for his career and the opportunity for others to explore a career in the solar industry through the Student ACES Solar Boot Camp, a four-week boot camp where participants have the opportunity learn about solar-energy construction from executives at FPL (a NextEra Energy company), Moss Construction and Garcia Development while also learning the importance of leadership and respect.

Solar projects are “really ramping up…the opportunity across the board with communities with the different business that support what we’re doing it really does have a wide-ranging benefit,” recognized Matt McCord of NextEra Energy Resources.

For many years now, Student ACES and FPL have been aligned on values. FPL’s support of the Student ACES program has been instrumental to the growth of the organization as well as the Student ACES Solar Boot Camp.

“The qualities that we look for in the workforce that build the solar projects are the same qualities that the Student ACES program instills in their kids…work ethic, winning attitude, leadership,” recognized Mark Sochacki of Moss Construction.

Gerald never gave up on his dreams or his entrepreneurial spirit, Student ACES never gave up on Gerald, FPL never gave up on Buck after his retirement, and FPL, Moss Construction and Garcia Development never gave up on providing opportunities to build a strong workforce in the state of Florida and beyond with students that many others, unfortunately, had given up on.

To learn more about the Student ACES program and Solar Boot Camp as well as other workforce development programs, visit

Student ACES, Gerald Hearns