09:46 AM

South Texas College holds first GED graduation ceremony


STC celebrated the recent graduation of the college’s GED students in a ceremony, the first-of-its-kind for the college.

It was a morning to celebrate second chances.

South Texas College held a graduation ceremony on Wednesday, August 17 to honor this year’s General Educational Development (GED) program graduates. All students who fulfilled their academic goals to earn a GED diploma were invited to attend the first-of-its-kind event, held at the Student Union ballroom on the Pecan campus. 

STC President Ricardo J. Solis, Ph.D., spoke at the graduation, noting that the group had overcome obstacles to return to school.

“Each of you has your own individual reason to want to earn your GED, from furthering your education, to seeking a better opportunity and serving as a role model to others,” Solis said. “You have all experienced setbacks and obstacles, both personally and educationally, but you have persevered. And now you’re here today, celebrating the achievement with your families. The STC family, our board, the exceptional faculty, administration and staff wish you all the success in this new chapter of your life that you’re about to begin.”

GED graduate Maricela Gonzalez, of Edinburg, served as the keynote speaker and said she had to stay focused to remain committed to the program, as she was working, often until 3 a.m. as a janitor, and then waking up for her classes at 7:30.

STC Trustee District 4 Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar

“This is about upward mobility and giving people a leg up as they access other post-secondary opportunities. That’s what this institution has always been for the Rio Grande Valley. And so, to hear that personal story today, and to be part of it now as a trustee, is emotional

STC Trustee District 4 Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar

“I was nervous when I started the class because I was the oldest one there,” Gonzalez said. “I barely started to learn how to use a computer. But I did this because my daughter encouraged me to come back and get my GED. It’s 30 years later, but I did it.”

Gonzalez said she always wanted to work in the health care field. Now that she’s earned her GED, she will begin studying at STC this fall to earn her associate degree and become a medical office specialist.

Gonzalez and most of the graduates completed their GED classes on grant scholarship.

Olivia De La Rosa, director of Professional and Workforce Education, said the GEDs were funded through the U.S. Department of Education Office of Migrant Education High School Equivalency Program (HEP); Texas Pioneer Foundation; Rio-South Texas Education and Community Development Foundation’s Postsecondary Career Pathways in Healthcare, Information Technology and Manufacturing; and Region One’s AEL Grant.  

STC Trustee Dalinda Gonzalez-Alcantar found herself moved by Gonzalez’s journey.

“Hearing her speak about coming back after almost 30 years because her daughter encouraged her is extremely moving as a mom,” Gonzalez-Alcantar said. “We are celebrating adults who have already had adult experiences, have had children and their own families. I think the theme here is hope.”

The general education diploma opens possibilities for students such as new job opportunities, continuing education or technical programs. Gonzalez-Alcantar said once a parent receives some type of post-secondary degree, their children are likely to do the same.

“The fact that these parents came back and became an example for their children with their high school degrees and will now come back to earn an associate degree; that’s a legacy that they’re establishing here at STC,” Gonzalez-Alcantar said.

De La Rosa said the inaugural ceremony was well-received by the graduates and their support systems.

“They didn’t experience a high school graduation, so for them, this is an exciting moment to share with their families,” De La Rosa said.

Veronica Montemayor from McAllen ISD’s department of Migrant Programs said she made sure to attend the event to support former students.

“To me, it’s great because many times they struggle in school or have some obstacles that are preventing them from attending school,” Montemayor said. “It gives them the opportunity to reconsider and take a new approach toward education.”

The graduates had to complete 150 hours of test preparation in four academic areas, including Mathematical Reasoning, Reasoning through Language Arts, Social Studies and Science.

“We also follow up with the graduates to see if they’ve found a job, or if they enrolled in college,” De La Rosa said. “We talk to them on a regular basis.”

Gonzalez-Alcantar said, as a former STC student and now a trustee, that she feels “this institution, 30 years in the making, is still an institution of hope.”

“In this case - second chances,” Gonzalez-Alcantar said. “This is about upward mobility and giving people a leg up as they access other post-secondary opportunities. That’s what this institution has always been for the Rio Grande Valley. And so, to hear that personal story today, and to be part of it now as a trustee, is emotional.”

STC leadership hopes to inspire others to earn their GED.

“I think it’s a great opportunity to show the community that even if you didn't finish high school, there's still a path for you,” De La Rosa said. “Go through a GED program, complete your GED and then continue on. We have over 100,000 people here in Hidalgo and Starr counties that don't have a high school diploma. So, this is a way of showing them, ‘Hey, you can do it.’”

For more information about STC’s Continuing, Professional and Workforce Education department and the General Educational Development program, visit www.southtexascollege.edu/cpit/cpwe.html