College graduation is twice as nice

HOUSTON "As Stephanie was growing up, I never in my wildest dreams imagined I would attend college along with her and then graduate with her," commented Mrs. Torres. "Because of our heritage, we tend to put limitations on what we are able to do educationally. But, I guess we overcame that stigma and here we are, graduating together."

Torres recently earned a registered nursing associate degree from San Jacinto College Central, while at the same time her daughter received a business administration associate degree from San Jacinto College North.

Although the mother and daughter, who both live in Pasadena, attended most classes on separate campuses, they did take one physical education class together at the North campus and thoroughly enjoyed being classmates.

Cantu took the "traditional" route to college, attending San Jacinto College after graduating from Pasadena High School. Her mother, on the other hand, is considered a "non-traditional" student in that she returned to college after a lengthy break from education.

In fact, there was a big gap in Torres's education. She only completed sixth grade in public school and was understandably apprehensive about attending college. Her younger sister Maggie had attended San Jacinto College and knew first hand how the College goes to great lengths to help people overcome obstacles to achieve their educational goals. With a lot of support and encouragement from her sister, Torres earned a GED certificate and enrolled at San Jacinto College, taking developmental classes to get up to speed and to gradually adjust to the academic rigors of college life.

Both mother and daughter worked hard to earn their degrees. They are also thankful for help they received along the way. San Jacinto College advisors helped them both to apply for, and receive grants, to help fund their education. Staff members helped Cantu find employment at the College through a work-study program. She now plans to continue her education, working toward a bachelor's degree in finance at the University of Houston-Clear Lake while working as an office assistant at San Jacinto College.

"At San Jacinto College you are not just a number or statistic. People really care," commented Torres. "When I first started, I was afraid and felt inferior because of my limitations. But Dr. Nell Pringle (associate dean of technology) really took me under her wing and became my mentor. She kept believing in me and encouraging me and telling me I could do it. Also, the nursing program is very demanding, but Karla Hardacker (nursing instructor) mentored me and kept encouraging me to keep going and went out of her way to help me stick with it and graduate."

Torres now hopes to fulfill a longtime dream by getting a job as a nurse at a local hospital. "I've worked at a beauty parlor for several years, but my real desire has always been to help others by serving as a nurse," she remarked. "I'm just thankful that attending San Jacinto College has enabled me to at last achieve that goal."

Torres added that she hopes her success story can inspire others. "I encourage anyone who has been out of school for a while and who might be considering attending college, but might think it's too late, to stop thinking that way," she remarked. "I know from experience that it's never to late for education. I'm living proof that it can be done."

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