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60 Students Earn GED at HEP Graduation

Saturday, July 19, 2014
By Eladio Jaimez

HEPWhen Maria Llerena delivered her speech at the 2014 HEP (High School Equivalency Program) Graduation Ceremony at TSTC's Cultural Arts center on Saturday, she told a personal story that represented the journey of this year's 60 graduates.

For the last 14 years, HEP has given many high school dropouts a second chance to rejoin the workforce or pursue a post-secondary education.

This year, 60 students graduated with a GED (General Education Diploma) and 19 will enter post-secondary education and 16 more will enter upgraded employment.

Llerena is one of the 19 pursuing a post-secondary education and is already enrolled in the Business Management Technology (BMT) Program at TSTC.

"I'd like to open a child care business one day," Llerena, 30, said. "Si Dios quiere."

Llerena moved to Harlingen from Valle Hermoso, Mexico when she was eight years old. She attended public school in Harlingen but dropped out as a sophomore at Harlingen High School when she got married.

"I worked as a cashier, waitress and custodian," the mother of three said. "It's very hard to find a job when you don't have a high school diploma."

After working as a custodian for the Harlingen school district for several years, Llerena quit to take care of her youngest. When she attempted to go back to work several years later, she couldn't because she lacked a high school diploma or GED.

"HEP helped me realize my dreams," Llerena said. "I've had my share of struggles but I did it."

TSTC's HEP has been recognized as one of the top 10 performing programs out of 40 plus High School Equivalency Programs nationwide by the Office of Migrant Education in Washington, D.C. TSTC placed high in graduate placement and efficiency while meeting its graduation rate.

Since 2001, the HEP project has served 1,382 students at TSTC with 69 percent receiving GEDs, 51 percent moving on to post-secondary education and 33 percent entering the workforce with upgraded employment.

For more information on HEP, go to http://www.tstc.edu/harlingenhep.

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