Las Vegas Sun

July 20, 2019

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Long road to graduation: Faces of adult education

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Jeanine Nunez

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Ebony Chambers

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Teresa Gateley

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John Scott

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Alex Chacon

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Daniel Hart

When the economy struggles, Nevada’s Adult Education programs thrive. This year was no exception in the Clark County School District, which served nearly 21,000 students between August and June.

Classes are offered from dawn to dusk at more than 40 locations, including Desert Rose Adult High School, the program’s brick-and-mortar campus in North Las Vegas. Participants include former dropouts as well as students who need a more flexible schedule because of work or family issues. They range in age from 17 to 70.

This year, 1,507 students earned their high school diplomas through the Adult Education program and another 1,090 completed their General Educational Development (GED) requirements.

Here are reflections by some of the graduates as they prepared to accept their diplomas last week at the Thomas & Mack Center.

Jeanine Nunez, 18

It’s a mistake to think every kid who drops out doesn’t want to learn or to work hard. When my grandmother got sick with cancer, I left school to take care of her and help my family. It was the right thing to do.

When I was ready to go back, everyone at Desert Rose was so helpful. I thought I wouldn’t make it at the end. My grandmother has passed away, but I know she would be proud of me for going back and graduating. I want to go to CSN and study medical assisting.

When you get your diploma, it opens doors. If you leave and don’t try again, you won’t be able to be anything.

Ebony Chambers, 19

I left school when I got pregnant. I didn’t want anyone to find out about me or point fingers. You’re not supposed to be pregnant when you’re still in high school.

The Adult Ed program was more convenient — I could take as many classes as I could handle. I’m going to continue my schooling and become a cosmetologist.

I’m not ashamed of my daughter — I love her to death. But I didn’t get to do a lot of things you get to do when you go to a regular high school — no senior prom, no homecoming. Everything happens for a reason. You make choices and then you do the best you can.

Teresa Gateley, 34

When I was 17 I quit Bonanza High School because I was pregnant. I was the oldest of five kids — definitely didn’t set the best example. My children are 16, 11 and 10. I went back to school not just for them, but to prove to myself I could do it.

For more of the time I’ve been a stay-at-home mom. I worked in real estate for a few years, but when the housing market went under I didn’t have any other skills to fall back on. Now that I have my diploma I can go to community college and get my prerequisites for a nursing degree.

What would I tell my 17-year-old self? Time is precious and you can’t get it back.

John Scott, 19

I dropped out of Mojave High School. There were a lot of family problems, and I had to find a place to live and get a job. I earn $8 per hour working as a caregiver, usually the graveyard and overnight shifts.

I went to Desert Rose because I knew I needed a diploma to do what I want to do with my life — study criminal justice at CSN.

The hardest times were getting out of bed some mornings and getting on the bus. Some days I started school at 7 a.m. and didn’t finish until 6 p.m. and then I went to work.

The teachers and counselors gave me a lot of one-on-one support. I don’t think I’d be here without them.

Alex Chacon, 35

I quit Basic High School when I was 17 — I didn’t play well with others. My dad told me I was dumb to quit. It never really bothered me. I was able to work as an electrician. It’s been OK.

Then they raised the age limit to be a firefighter, and that’s something I’d like to do. But I had to graduate first. Now I’m planning to study fire science at CSN.

Graduating also means I can tell my 11-year-old daughter she has to go to school.

I wasn’t going to show up for graduation. The only reason I’m walking is that my dad told me to. If it makes him happy, I’ll do it.

Daniel Hart, 18

When I was at Cimarron-Memorial High School, I ditched class all the time. I probably missed four months. I’d hang out in the parks or at a friend’s house. It gets boring after a while.

I wanted to enlist in the military but you can’t do that without finishing high school. I’m going to study diesel mechanics before I sign up so I have some more skills.

I never thought I would make it to graduation. It helped to have so much support from Desert Rose — you could go in any time and there was someone there to talk to you.

My teachers told me I could do it. They told me so many times I started to believe it.

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