Monday, June 21, 2010

Rio Salado GED Graduate: ‘Just Do it’

By David Staudacher, Rio Salado College PR Manager

“Students who complete the ABE (Adult Basic Education) program through Rio Salado generally experience higher self-esteem, an increase in job opportunities and more choices in many areas of life,” said Blair Liddicoat, associate dean of Adult Basic Education at Rio Salado College. “Approximately 7,500 students attended ABE classes with us this past year.”

Among those students was Ebaristo Ortega, who understands what Liddicoat is talking about. In May, he did more than proudly earn his GED. Ortega, who dropped out of high school nearly 14 years ago, was selected as the student speaker at Rio Salado College’s 2010 GED Graduation ceremony.

Deciding to return to school for his diploma was a difficult decision for Ortega. In October he was laid off from his job and school didn’t seem like a priority – until he started looking for jobs.

“From that point on I tried to get jobs and they would ask for my GED or evidence that I had it,” said Ortega. “It was like a light bulb going on and saying ‘It’s time to get your GED.’ And it’s something I’ve been wanting to get for a very long time, too.”

Besides being unemployed with very few opportunities in sight, Ortega was inspired to earn his GED after seeing a relative graduate from college.

“Seeing my niece graduate from Arizona State University, at 22-years-of age as an engineer really motivated me,” said Ortega. “When I saw her graduate, it reminded of my parents, who came to this country to give us, their children, a better future. When I saw my parents’ eyes filled with pride when they looked at my niece is the moment when I said ‘this is the reason my parents came to this country.’ My family is important to me and I want to be a role model to my family members who don’t have their diploma or GED, just like my niece was to me.”

While his family inspired him to return to school, it was the staff a Rio Salado College that kept him motivated to graduate and built his self esteem to the point where he didn’t shy away from speaking in public to nearly 200 of his graduating peers.

“The staff at Rio Salado College was excellent,” said Ortega. “Linda Putnam is a great director, and Maria Minor, who was my teacher, helped me out a lot. There was a lot of encouragement there.”

Rio Salado’s Adult Basic Education (ABE) helps students improve their basic reading, writing and math skills. These classes will help them become more self-sufficient, improve job skills and lay the foundation for a better future.

For Ortega, the future is continuing his education.

“I’m already enrolled in college and started in June,” he said.

According to the U.S. Census, nearly half a million adults in Maricopa County are neither enrolled in school nor have a high school credential. Ortega used to be one of these students, but found the encouragement he needed at Rio Salado College. Now, he is encouraging others to earn their diplomas.

“Go back to school,” said Ortega with a proud laugh. “Don’t let anything hold you down. It’s important to just do it, and it will be worth it in the long run.”

To learn more about Rio Salado College’s Adult Basic education program, visit http//