Friday, May 17, 2019

Here’s to the HSE #RioGrad Class of 2019!

YouTube snapshot of graduation ceremony

We celebrated the accomplishments of 200+ students who have successfully completed Rio Salado’s GED® test prep classes and passed the GED® test at our annual HSE Graduation Ceremony, Thursday, May 16 at North Phoenix Baptist Church in Phoenix. 

Photo of Hoffman on stage shaking hands with a new HSE graduate

The ceremony was held on #GEDGradDay—a nationwide celebration to recognize the accomplishments of new GED® graduates-- and to inspire other adult re-entry students to fulfill their potential.

Among the guests at this year’s event was Arizona Department of Education’s new Superintendent of Public Instruction Kathy Hoffman, who shared inspirational remarks with guests. Watch her speech now

Rio Salado College serves as the principal provider of GED test preparation programs for the Maricopa Community Colleges and the largest provider of adult basic education in the state of Arizona.

Snapshot of Cuevas at graduation ceremony delivering his speech

This year’s HSE Student Speaker was Javier Cuevas, who decided to earn his HSE diploma to improve his career prospects. 

There are many things in a person’s childhood that can forever shape their future: parents, neighborhoods, peer pressure, cultural and societal influences. All of these left an imprint on Javier Cuevas.

“Growing up in a bad neighborhood takes its toll on the youth,” Cuevas said. “The influences, the peer pressure, the need to fit in. I was never a bad kid. I just made the wrong friends.”
Photo of Cuevas in cap and gown at Rio Salado Tempe

After spending time in juvenile detention, Cuevas had to drop out of high school to move to Mexico with his father.

“I was a 15-year-old American kid living in the most dangerous city in Mexico,” Cuevas said. “One day, a car pulled up on the curb. A man jumped out with a shotgun and pointed it to my head. I thought this was it. It seemed that time froze. Suddenly the driver yelled out, ‘it isn't him’ and sped off.”

The next year Cuevas returned to the U.S. to live with his mother. He had to re-start high school as a 16-year old freshman but caught up to being a senior in two years. However, he dropped out again when he learned he was going to be a father.
“As an adult, I learned that it’s extremely difficult to find a decent job without a diploma,” Cuevas said. Working long hours with low pay and stressing over how to pay bills led Cuevas to finally earn his high school equivalency diploma.
Cuevas credits Rio Salado College for helping him reach his goal.

“The friendly demeanor of the teachers made it easy to adapt and feel comfortable making mistakes,” Cuevas said. “They understood the struggle of balance between work, family, and school. I wouldn’t be here without them.”

Cuevas also thanks his family for seeing him through school.
“I want to thank my wife, who motivated me to go back to school, and my mom, for not giving up on me and being here tonight to see me graduate.”
Cuevas plans to continue his education by studying music business at Mesa Community College.

Thanks to Maricopa Community Colleges Television, you can watch Cuevas speech now and the entire graduation ceremony at

We encourage you to share your grad stories using #GEDGradDay #RioGrad.

Event Photos 
We will share event photos as soon as they’re available via our Facebook account. Additional photos are available for purchase by GradImages® at 

Learn more about Rio Salado’s GED® test prep program at