Pima Community College High School Equivalency students celebrated their graduating with pomp and circumstance Sept. 23 by sharing intimate stories to a large audience of cheering friends and family.
Graduate Athena Martinez, a 32-year-old mother of six, passed her GED in 2021 and is now enrolled in PCC’s Building and Construction Technologies IBEST program with emphasis in electrical. She plans to open a youth center to teach basic and advanced carpentry skills.
“If there is only one thing you leave here with today, it’s to follow your dreams…let your hard work and perseverance drive you for a better future,” Martinez said. “Don’t give up, challenge yourself!”
Her plans won’t stop after receiving her Building and Construction Technologies certificates.
“Next year, in the spring, I plan on getting my teaching degree,” she said. “I will start pursuing that so that way I can come back and get my certificates, so I can open up a program for the youth and help them learn advanced carpentry skills. That way, they can build their own houses or find stable income rather than go the route that we see our youth going toward.”
Jennylee January-Hocking, a 29-year-old who was homeschooled until high school. She was forced to quit high school after her mom was injured in a car crash to keep their ranch and businesses afloat. For years she carried shame about not finishing high school.
She found Pima’s adult education program at the 29th Street Coalition Center and was welcomed with open arms. After passing the GED, she continued her educational goals at PCC. She is pursuing an associate’s degree in liberal arts with an emphasis on education and plans to be a teacher.
“I am hoping to transfer to a four-college, but I don’t know where yet because my husband is in the military, so who knows,” she added.
“I want to be a teacher. It’s going to be elementary education. I want to get more schooling, so I can actually teach high school.”
To reach this goal, high school equivalency (HSE) diploma, January-Hocking researched adult education.
“I researched it and then my husband actually dragged me to the adult education office,” she said. “He knew how much I wanted to get it.”
The stigma of getting an GED and HSE, weighed heavy on her, like others who did not finish high school in their teens.
“I was too prideful and too full of myself,” January-Hocking said. “I am too old and I’m an officer’s wife…And I didn’t want to go through that.”
But she did, along with 20-year-old mother of two, CC Flannery
Flannery left high school at age 16 to raise her daughters. Many hardships followed, but Flannery was committed to pursuing her dreams and being a role model for her daughters. Once she decided to get her HSE diploma, it took her two months to prepare for and pass her GED. Since then, she has earned her peer mentoring certificate and is preparing to continue her education at PCC in January.
“I want to use (the peer mentoring certificate) and my life experiences to help other youth like me,” she said. “I want to be a life coach or peer mentor when I am older.”
Flannery said she does want to continue her college education through PCC.
“I might go further,” Flannery said post-associate’s degree work. “I was thinking of (degrees) in psychology, or I like philosophy, too. I want to work with people, that somehow, some way helps people.”
She faced a big obstacle.
“I lived in my car, that was my biggest thing,” she said. “I am nervous about my speech (tonight), but I want to inspire (at least) one person. “
PCC’s HSE program has been successful. For more information, visit pima.edu.
Laurie Kierstead-Joseph, PCC assistant vice chancellor of adult basic education for college and career, said three HSE pathways are available to learners in Arizona.
There are three ways to obtain an HSE in Arizona, all of which require a passing score in the Arizona civics test. Visit azed.gov for more information about the GED testing pathway, the college credit pathway, or the HSE Plus career readiness pathway.