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Working Man: Casarez Burning Candle at Both Ends to Get Through School

Wednesday, April 3, 2013
By Eladio Jaimez

Juan CasarezA typical day for 34-year old Juan Casarez starts in the darkness of the early morning.

Casarez wakes up every day at approximately 2:30 a.m. to be at work by 3 a.m. at the Stripes convenient store in La Feria. Casarez works in the kitchen cooking and preparing breakfast for the customers. At 7 a.m., he goes home, showers and gets ready for college classes.

Casarez is a student at Texas State Technical College and a first-year student in the Automotive Technology program. He’s in school from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. on Monday through Thursday.

It’s a rough schedule. One that he admits can take its toll on the mind and body. But since August of 2012 when he enrolled full time at TSTC, Casarez has only missed one day. He currently holds a 4.0 grade point average (GPA) – equivalent to straight A’s – and is looking forward to earning his certificate later this summer.

“It’s very important to me and the school and my family,” Casarez said about maintaining a 4.0 GPA. “I receive financial aid so I know I have to keep my grades up. The school and the government is helping pay for my school so the least I could do is keep my grades up. I try to be here every day and on time. It’ll all pay off in the end.”

Casarez, who’s been married 16 years and has a son, says it’s a necessary sacrifice in order to better provide for his family. The only day he missed from school was to take his son to the hospital.

“I work Monday through Saturday,” Casarez said. “I’m not going to lie, it gets tough. But my family is my motivation. I love my son and we don’t want him to go through what we went through growing up. We want a better life for him.”

Casarez grew up learning the meaning of hard work at an early age. He estimates he was around eight or nine years old when he starting traveling with his family to New York state to work as a migrant worker. He continued with that livelihood until 2010 when Casarez and his wife decided to remain home following a couple of family deaths.

About a year ago, Casarez said a friend of his informed him about a job in Weslaco. But without a high school diploma or GED, Casarez was going to face a tough time getting the job.

“I enrolled in the HEP (High School Equivalency) program here at TSTC and earned my GED,” Casarez said. “By that time, they had already filled the position (in Weslaco) but the instructors here encouraged me to sign up for classes at TSTC. They told me about the different programs and I was interested in the Automotive Tech program. So I signed up. Hopefully everything works out and I’ll be done soon.”

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