The Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City is a 32-year-old tradition. This year, East Austin College Prep junior Eli Hernandez will become a part of that history.
Every year, the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade holds auditions across the country for Spirit of America dancers. Hundreds of cheerleaders and dancers audition every year, and Hernandez is one of the only four male dancers selected this year.
"Through the grace of God, I got in," Hernandez said. "My family, my community and my friends really pulled together and supported my dreams."
Hernandez, captain of his school's dance team, "The Tigerettes," was actually selected to perform in the Macy's Parade in 2016 but could not afford the $2,500 required for travel and hotel costs.
This year, that wasn't a problem.
Hernandez's teachers and family rallied to help raise the money. Hernandez's dance teacher Erika Agrait created a GoFundMe page, while other teachers raffled their artwork for donations. Hernandez's mother held a garage sale. Together, they all raised enough to get Hernandez to New York City and achieve his dream.
"I saw how my passion towards dance did impact others to help me on my dance journey, which I can't stress enough is the best blessing I have ever had!" Hernandez said. "When he performs, you can tell that he is crazy passionate about dance."
His dance teacher said she is delighted he will represent the school.
"We are thrilled that he is putting EAPrep on the map," Agrait said. "When you watch him, it just lights up the stage and lights up the whole room."
Dr. Juan Sanchez is the founder and CEO of the Southwest Key Programs. He said getting their kids involved is important for his staff.
"We want to make sure we create a well-rounded student that has had a lot of experiences," Dr. Sanchez said. "To have one of our students from this community who's going to New York to be in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade is wonderful."
Hernandez will be in New York City from Nov. 18 to Nov. 24. He will perform with Spirit of America Productions in the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade from 9 a.m. to 12 p.m. EST on Thanksgiving Day.