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Students Get Second Chance, Earn GED

Sunday, June 30, 2013
By Eladio Jaimez

ABEAbel Amaya, 45, would often make a 20-mile roundtrip ride on his bicycle from his home in Rio Hondo to the Texas State Technical College campus in Harlingen.

The ride wasn’t for training of physical gains. It was merely the only way Amaya could get to class. Amaya was enrolled in the Adult Basic Education (ABE) program at TSTC and always made sure to get to class even when he didn’t have a car.

On Saturday, the sacrifices paid off as Amaya was one of 98 students to receive their GED during the ABE Commencement at the Cultural Arts Center. Among those, 15 were from the inaugural class from the Raymondville Satellite.

“I didn’t think I deserved to be here,” said Amaya, who served a 13-year prison sentence until his release in October 2012.

“I never thought I deserved to be in school or could accomplish something like this. But I worked hard for this and it’s only the beginning.”

Amaya entered the prison system for robbery in 1999. And it took him six years to finally realize that prison life wasn’t for him, Amaya said.

“I knew I had to do something to change my life,” he said. My ways weren’t working. So I decided to do something about it. I wanted to change my life and be a productive member of society.”

But Amaya found it difficult to find a job. And when one workplace finally asked him to take a math test, Amaya said he decided he needed to return to school.

“That’s when I came to TSTC, asked for help and started on this new path,” Amaya said.

Amaya not only earned his GED, he also leaves the ABE Program certified in CPR, Customer Service and Safety and Food Management. On July 2, Amaya will take his CDL test to become a truck driver.

“I feel confident about myself again,” Amaya said. “This was the ultimate second chance. And if I can do it, anyone else can do it too.”

That seemed to be the mutal notion shared by many of the graduates.

Heather Tanguma, 23, of San Perlita dropped out of high school in the 11th grade due to bullying. A lack of self-confidence throughout her life has made it difficult to move ahead. But now as a mother, Tanguma said her son provided more than plenty of motivation finish the ABE program.

She now aspires to continue her education in the medical field.

“I wanted to be a surgeon when I was little,” she said. “But it’ll take years. We’ll see.”

Keynote speaker Senator Eddie Lucio Jr. encouraged the graduates to continue their education.

“I know you’re eager to enter the workforce and we need you there,” Lucio said. “But I also hope you apply to one of our great institutions of higher learning in the Valley and continue your education.”

TSTC President Cesar Maldonado reminded the graduates that this was the start of a new life for them.

“As hard as it is to start, it’s harder to stay in,” Maldonado said. “You’ve accomplished something today and that’s a finishing point. But as you finish one step, you’re on your way to another success.”

Of the 98 graduates, 60 percent will continue their education, according to experts of the TSTC College Readiness division who oversee the ABE Program.

If you’re interested in earning your GED or would like more information on the Adult Basic Education Program, go to http://www.tstc.edu/harlingenabe.

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