Determined. It’s the best word to describe most students who go back to school to complete their high school education after several years of being out of school. General Education Development (GED) students are resolute about completing Del Mar College’s GED Program to earn the equivalency of a high school diploma.
On Thursday, June 21, about 110 out of 167 of the College’s GED graduates received their rewards during the program’s commencement ceremony in Richardson Performance Hall.
Students who faced challenges before and during their work toward earning their certificates include:
Patsy Deer decided to sign up for GED classes about three decades after her last class in the ninth grade at Flour Bluff High School. As a youth in the early 1980s, Deer says she struggled with dyslexia, making school difficult for her. After having major surgery at age 13, she also fell behind and couldn’t catch up.
“I didn’t like school back then,” Deer says. “Dad worked overseas a lot, and I didn’t have much parental supervision. Mom did her best, but there was only so much she could do.”
Deer says she spent much of her working years in the restaurant business waiting tables and bartending. Additionally, she held laborer positions that were physically demanding.
“Basically, I’m getting too old to do a man’s job,” the 46-year-old says. “I always wanted to come back to school, but I’m a procrastinator.”
In recent years, Deer gave more and more thought to earning her GED and as the burden of physical labor became overwhelming, she decided to enroll in GED classes in November 2011.
“I just decided it was time. I figured it was time to go back so that I can start using my brain instead of my body,” Deer adds.
Although Deer struggled in math, she excelled in other areas. “I was in Advance Placement classes in English in the eighth and ninth grades so I discovered that I was still pretty strong in those areas when I started taking GED classes,” she says.
Deer scored 2970 on her GED exam, 500 points higher than the 2011 national average. As a result, she is graduated with honors.
Deer notes that during the ceremony, she thought of her mother, a GED graduate who passed away in 2010.
Currently, she is enrolled in summer courses at DMC and is pursuing a radiology degree while still considering her options.
Robert Villarreal left school when he was in the eighth grade in a Fayetteville, North Carolina, middle school in the mid 1980s.
Villarreal says he immediately began working in the restaurant industry and rose to management level for small business operations despite his lack of a formal education. A Corpus Christi native, Villarreal relocated back to the Coastal Bend at age 20 and continued his career in the restaurant industry.
However, Villarreal realized that without a GED cetificate he would not be able to take a management position with a corporate restaurant chain, which offers standard retirement benefits that most independent businesses are unable to provide.
And then, the roof caved in.
“About two and a half years ago, I came down with an illness that required surgery, which prevented me from walking. I had to have a pair of hip replacement surgeries, and so I was out of work,” Villarreal recalls.
As Villarreal recuperated from his surgeries in early 2011, he decided to sign up for GED classes. He began in May 2011 and began absorbing the lessons at an accelerated rate.
“I haven’t studied since eighth grade, so it was tough. I learned that I had to study every night,” Villarreal says. “I had to work at it because I didn’t just take two years off from school like some of my classmates, I was out of school 20 years.”
His hard work paid off. Villarreal’s instructors informed him that he was ready for the GED exam last October. His test results arrived the day before his 40th birthday. He earned an overall score of 3340, nearly 900 points higher than the 2011 national average. He also had perfect scores on his social studies and science tests.
Villarreal graduated June 21 with highest honors as the class valedictorian.
Now enrolled in summer courses at DMC, Villarreal is following up on a boyhood fascination with aviation by pursuing a mechanical engineering degree. He plans to transfer to Texas A&M University-Kingsville or Texas A&M University-Corpus Christi to complete his bachelor’s degree.
Eventually, Villarreal hopes to pursue a career in either the aerospace or oil industries.
“I’m interested in aerospace firms like Boeing or Lockheed Martin; but the oil industry is always in need of engineers, so either way the future looks bright,” he says, adding: “It all starts with my GED. Having that certificate is a good way to start the second half of my life.”