McALLEN – When he starts talking about his four children, Guadalupe Rodriguez's face immediately lights up. It is evident that he is very proud of them.
"I have two sons and two daughters and three of them have already graduated from college and gone on to good work; one as a teacher and the others as therapists," he explained. "The youngest is in high school, but she will go to college too. It's the only way to get a better life and it's what I have been working for all along."
He says seeing his children go to college was his vision when he immigrated to the United States when he was 27 years old in 1986.
"I studied in Reynosa and earned a technical degree in electrical motors and equipment, but that didn't translate into a job here," he explained. "I had to work in the fields. I didn't know anyone in the U.S., I didn't speak good English and I didn't have a U.S. education. It was very difficult."
As his family grew, Rodriguez found jobs wherever he could. There was no time to continue his educational journey.
"I worked at a car wash and was eventually promoted to manager, but I had more ambition that that," Rodriguez said. "I was fortunate to earn a scholarship to take English courses and so my English improved and I was able to get better work in the maquillas. Then I worked for Ford Motor Company in Dallas on the assembly line and in maintenance, but I couldn't take the cold weather so we moved back to the Valley. In time, I moved on to work for Progressive Molding Products and I was there for eight years, but the company closed down. In a way, it was a good thing."
How could losing your job be a good thing? For Rodriguez, it was the push he needed to go back to school.
"As part of my package from the company, I started a GED program through a grant-funded agency," he explained. "Unfortunately that funding fell through, but I was pointed to South Texas College. I was able to continue my studies without any interruption. The instructor was great and gave me all the personal attention I needed."
Now with his GED certificate in hand with the help of STC's GED Preparation Program, Rodriguez says this is just the start of his continuing education.
"I recently secured a job with the City of Edinburg as a lift station operator and I couldn't have gotten that job without my GED certificate," Rodriguez said proudly. "Now I want to continue going to school in either plumbing, electrical or HVACR. What you achieve is the image people have of you. If I can do this, anyone can.
"I have my eyes set on the college graduation stage," he concluded. "Now that my kids are grown and pushing me like I pushed them, I guess it's my turn."
For more information about STC's GED Preparation Program call 956-872-3585 or visit http://admin.southtexascollege.edu/cpe/.