Never too late: Adults earn high school diplomas in San Jose for free

Lauren Martinez Image
Friday, August 25, 2023
Never too late: Adults earn high school diplomas in San Jose for free
An inspiring story about never giving up, 10 adults received their high school diploma through a San Jose library program offered at no cost.

SAN JOSE, Calif. (KGO) -- An inspiring story about never giving up. Ten adults received their high school diploma through a San Jose library program offered at no cost.

Viviana Suarez is receiving her high school diploma. Her cap and gown were decorated as an ode to her home country of Colombia.

"I feel so proud of myself today I feel excited about all this. It was a dream. And the dream came true," Suarez said.

Six years ago, Suarez and her two young sons fled violence in Colombia and came to the US.

"I was kind of upset because I came to this country to clean restrooms, like some immigrants do," Suarez said.

Suarez didn't want a low-income job forever.

Her oldest son was an avid reader, so they frequented the library. It was there she found out about San Jose Public Library's Career Online High School. A program offered for free.

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"It's supposed to be around three years but it took four years because I tried to quite a lot of times," Suarez said.

Suarez had two jobs and two young kids. Completing the program was not easy.

"Don't procrastinate, because you always have something more important to do. Or more urgent to do. And that was the most important thing, not giving up," Suarez said.

Suarez said she knew she had to continue for herself and to show her kids what education can do.

"The kids live by example. They don't believe what you say - they believe what they see," Suarez said.

Now Suarez is one of 10 adults earning their high school diploma and a career certificate.

San Jose resident Edith Mota hopes she can eventually get a business license.

"To keep working hard for my kids and show them like I can do that. I'm old but I have to try," Mota said.

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Mota said it's a program worth spreading the word about.

"I just recommended one of my friends so she almost finished the program too," Mota said.

A graduation ceremony was held inside San Jose City Hall Rotunda Thursday night.

The Career Online High School program launched in 2016 and so far 165 adults have earned an accredited high school diploma. The program has a 70% completion rate, one of the highest in the nation among similar programs.

Mayor Matt Mahan addressed the graduates, saying that they're not only making their lives better, but the community as a whole.

During Suarez's speech, she shared what she called her immigrant journey that started with three suitcases.

"I am grateful to be able to teach an important lesson to my children, you can start over at any time," Suarez said. "You work is not over, and there are all these new opportunities. I hope that my children feel proud of me too and that I have created a very good life for them here. My family and I are ready for whatever God has in store for us. I have come so far and I am proud of where I am going. I am now working in marketing helping local entrepreneurs find success in business."

The San Jose Public Library Foundation partners with the California State Library and other sponsors to offer full scholarships for adult learners to enroll in COHS.

You can go into any library to find out more information.

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