LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) –  He was once an illegal immigrant, but now he can say he's met the president of the United States.

JCPS student Gil Hernandez said meeting the commander in chief changed his life, and the message from the president is something he will remember forever.

“You were chosen because you believe in America’s future and because you have the ambitions and the heart that America will always be victorious,” President Donald Trump said to the select group of students.

The Butler High School student represented the state of the Kentucky during the prestigious Boys Nation Program, a mock government forum in Washington D.C.

“It left me speechless,” Hernandez said.

In the week that he said shaped his future, he also had the opportunity to meet President Trump.

“When I first saw him, all I could think about was this is incredible,” Hernandez said.

“Being successful is about your purpose in life and never ever giving up,” Trump said. “Because you have what it takes to be the leaders that will shape this future.”

“He basically affirmed that I'm doing something right in life, that I just need to keep going to pursue what I want,” Hernandez said.

With a face full of emotion, he even shook the president's hand at the White House.

“That was unreal,” Hernandez recalled.

After walking through the desert in Mexico with his mom in search of a better life, meeting the president was something he never thought would happen.

“He does seem more genuine in person," Hernandez said. "I got a different vibe from him in person than what I do on television. It gives people like me who don't have a shot, to actually have a shot. And to me, that means a lot.”

Although Hernandez doesn't agree with everything the president has done, he said he greatly respects him, which was one of the themes of the week during Boys Nation.

“It's a dying art," Hernandez said. "It's something that should be embraced. We can't really do anything without respect."

Boys Nation is funded by the American Legion. After meeting with many veterans, Gil said he is thinking about going into the Air Force and then pursuing a career in politics.

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