Having come from a family where my father was a professor at Cal Poly, education was a high priority in my home growing up. But I decided early on that making good money was more important for me. I became a construction laborer and quickly progressed from carpenter to superintendent on the jobs of my choice. I worked long, grueling hours, but the money was excellent. Then things changed. It’s what I called “the evolution of the educated construction worker.” Someone half my age became my boss, and made more money than I did, because he was college-educated. I asked him how he’d learned at such a young age what had taken me my whole career to master. He said he learned it in college.
At 48 years old, I was fortunate to land a great job, but only because of an oversight made by the employer. I almost didn’t get the job because I didn’t have a high school diploma or the equivalent. Even with 30 years of job experience, I should’ve been denied the position. But, I was offered the job, with the understanding that I would get my GED. That’s when I knew it was time to do something about my lack of completion.
With this kind of incentive behind me, I had no apprehension at all, and began attending the night time GED Prep class. My teacher, Heidi Kirkpatrick, was so helpful and encouraging along the way. After about three months of preparation classes, I was able to pass the five parts of the GED test.
One night at class, a young guy remarked to the class, “I’m in construction, what do I need an education for?” I wish I had told him that in the working world, it beats you up every day not to have an education. The job market today is so competitive that even a high school diploma is not always enough. My hope in sharing my story is that others will benefit from the lessons I’ve learned, and hopefully they won’t have to wait until they’re 48!
Students, young an old, will realize the importance of taking their education seriously, and that getting a GED or high school diploma is an extremely worth-while and necessary thing to do.
By Jackie Gutierrez, 2005 graduate, as told to Susan Segel
I came back to school 30 years after my classmates graduated from high school as a surprise for my parents' 50th anniversary. I wanted to give my parents the gift of seeing one of their four children get their high school diploma. Although I had worked and advanced in the same company for 27 years, I felt there was a sense of completion that was missing from my life because I didn't have a high school diploma. The proficiency exam I took back then wasn't really good for anything. I needed a diploma for personal reasons.
When I read about Nevada Union Adult School in the newspaper, the timing was right, and I decided to come back to school. My teachers really helped me along the way; they wanted me to succeed. I could've easily given up on my goal when my dad passed away during the process, but Julie and Cathy [Jackie's teachers] and Anita [Program Coordinator] gave me incredible support.
Once I graduated, I wasn't going to go to the ceremony, but Anita encouraged me and it was one of the greatest things I could've done. My family and I were so proud, and it gave me such a sense of wholeness and completion.
The other graduates, who were much younger than I, really included me in the fun of the ceremony, which I wasn't expecting!
It doesn’t cost anything to get this great sense of achievement, and it's not a difficult process so don't wait for thirty years like I did! Anyone who hasn't graduated should really set their goal and get started on the path to a high
By Julie Higgins as told to Susan Segel
In my family, we like to challenge each other. So when my son graduated from UCLA, both of my kids jumped on the opportunity to challenge me to get my high school diploma. While I’d never had a problem getting a
job, not having my diploma had held me back from many opportunities, including job advancements and pay raises.
When I finally agreed to try, both of my kids and my husband were so supportive. If not for them I might not have taken that first step. I got some information from Nevada Union Adult School, got up my nerve and attended an orientation. The different options they offered to attain my diploma made it really convenient as an adult with a life! My teacher, Cathy Harmon, and the program’s director, Anita Bagwell were so supportive and encouraging. Cathy never made me feel badly if life got in the way and my assignments weren’t finished on time. She trusted that I would get them
I thought I’d feel uncomfortable around all of the younger students, many of whom were my kids' age, but I never felt out of place. At times I felt like I couldn’t possibly do all the work, but Cathy was very understanding and helpful. It took me seven months to finish my requirements and I couldn’t be happier that I stuck to my goal and met my kid’s challenge!