By Amanda Sotelo
Rocio Saucedo, 40 and a mother of two, celebrated with her family as she received her GED (general education development) degree during a ceremony recently hosted by partners in education South Texas College and Region One Education Service Center.
STC provides the instructors and training through STC’s Continuing Education department and Center for Advanced Training and Apprenticeships for GED and technical certifications, while Region One ESC, through a grant funded by the Department of Education, recruits and serves at least 1,000 adults per year by helping them complete a diploma or GED, enter college, providing financial aid application resources and career options and pathways, through a program called Operation College Bound and Beyond.
Saucedo, who also served as the STC graduate speaker during the ceremony, said it was three years ago when her family made the life-changing decision to move to the United States for better opportunities. Of course, it came with its challenges.
“My family is a migrant family and many of you know, leaving everything behind and starting a new adventure in a different country requires a lot of courage and adapting to things like a new language, new culture and new traditions,” she told her fellow graduates. “But one year ago, I was fortunate enough that the district, in which my children attend school, invited me to a meeting. In this meeting, I was informed about this GED program and all the possibilities that came with it. It was exciting, and when they take you by the hand and help you achieve all that you dream of, it’s something of value.”
Saucedo, however, is not an average GED student, the Mexico native already holds a bachelor’s degree and soon a master’s degree from her home country in accounting and education, respectively.
But because she is in a new country, she said she felt she had to take this journey to get a GED and higher education degrees from an American college to wholeheartedly be able to make a difference in the lives of students like herself.
“Yes, I could have transferred my degrees over here after rigorous paperwork, but I need to familiarize myself with this country’s culture and education system to fully be able to make a difference. So, I thought, starting all over was a good idea, and I haven’t been wrong.”
Now, with a GED degree in hand, she is completing a certificate as a certified customs specialist through STC’s Center for Advanced Training and Apprenticeships and expects to graduate next month.
And like Saucedo, other GED graduates also received STC certifications in high-demand fields such as Heating, Ventilation and Air Conditioning (HVAC), Welding and Certified Customs Specialist.
STC President Ricardo J. Solis shared his mother’s words of wisdom with each graduate.
“I could tell you to go conquer the world, but that speech is overdone, what I want to share has meaning. It’s a piece of advice my mother once shared with me and now I share it with you,” he told the graduates. “The capacity to learn is a gift and today is a gift; the ability to learn is experience, you all learned a skill and will continue to learn and this is the most important one – learning is a choice. You all made the choice to learn, overcoming many obstacles to be here and we are so proud of you. We can’t to see what you do next.”
Rocio Franco, project director for the Region One Operation College Bound and Beyond grant, said at least 49% of the population in Hidalgo and Starr counties do not have a high school diploma or GED degree and through the partnership with STC, they are creating a pipeline for students to not only receive a second chance at a high school diploma, but to continue pursuing higher education.
“We are creating transformation for individuals, their families and our region; that is our goal,” she said. “STC has been such a great partner to help with this mission. This really is a win-win for everyone. And I’m feeling so blessed that we have amazing partners who have come together to celebrate such a huge milestone for these students.”
And as for Saucedo, she plans on continuing her education to earn a master’s degree in Education from a local university to become a teacher that can inspire change, like her GED instructors have for her.
For more information on STC’s GED program, visit southtexascollege.edu.