03 Aug Are We There Yet?
I understood the material and had good grades in school growing up, but that wasn’t enough. I had teachers who supported me during my struggles and praised me for my effort, but that wasn’t enough. My family supported me as best as they could, but that still just wasn’t enough. Carrying the combined labels of “high school dropout” and “teen parent” helped, but wasn’t my reason why.
Most eighteen-year-olds are celebrating their senior year and planning their next moves preparing for their future. At eighteen, I was figuring out how I would take care of someone else who was completely dependent on me. Working full time was paying my bills and putting food on my table, but a job for a pregnant high school dropout, wouldn’t be enough for us. I quit working and moved back in with parents to finish high school. I was determined I would have my high school diploma because to me, it meant I was already bettering myself, for my new family.
Not long after graduation, I started working at San Antonio College as a temporary employee. After some time, I was offered a full-time position, not knowing my supervisor, Dr. Thomas Hoy, was paving the way for my non-traditional, unique college path. He was the first person to have conversations with me about returning to school, the short term and long term benefits of my education, and working in the education industry. He explained what the enrollment process what, how to enroll, who to talk with about enrolling. He asked me about my career interests so I knew what degrees to research. All things I never really talked about; growing up, I was raised to be housewives and stay at home mother.
I did it. I enrolled and I was even awarded a scholarship. But life happens and as the years passed, I put the parent and provider in me first, and education on the backburner. Juggling the head of household, single mom, full-time employee, t-ball coach, PTA Secretary, and school, things get challenging and overwhelming at times. I dropped out of school a few times, ended up losing my scholarship and owing money.
As my children started talking to me about their conversations at school about their college plans, I knew my why. If I wanted to keep teaching my children about preparing for their future, I needed them to understand, see my challenges, and my bad days, to hopefully realize that I am paving the way for their college paths. I walked into SAEP one day and unloaded all of my problems on the Advisor. She sat with me for hours calling different entities about a registration hold here and a financial aid question there. She printed me a customized degree plan and even gave me a cheat sheet with all my usernames and passwords. She did not let me leave until I was registration ready!
After thirteen years, I finally was awarded a reverse degree from San Antonio College with transfer credits from progress toward my Bachelor’s degree at Texas State and found my passion in the education industry. With SAEP, you can’t stop me from gloating about our programs, services, and team. I can not only empathize with my students as a parent to a college-bound senior, but with their families as well. With the Road 2 Success, cafécollege, and Upgrade programs, like me, anyone can unload their problems when they’re ready and I’m happy to be on the other side of the desk, or video call!
Jacquelyn Perez, College Access and Success Advisor, Road to Success