“Too old" to get a high school diploma? Never.
Isabel Hernandez earned her diploma in 2018 at age 71. And Sean Kavanaugh completed his diploma this year, at age 35.
Both exemplify the hard work and achievement of students, teachers and staff at Jurupa Adult School, where JUSD's adult pupils earn diplomas, build job skills, and learn without limits.
The campus, which enrolled 1,540 students last school year, offers diplomas, GEDs and Career Technical Education (CTE) courses to students 18 and older.
“The goal of Jurupa Adult School is to provide students with educational opportunities they might not otherwise have access to," said Principal Annamarie Montañez, Ed.D.
Since 2016, the campus has added CTE classes in computers, welding and HVAC – and created programs that train students to become medical assistants, pharmacy technicians and security guards. Decisions on new programs are driven by local labor trends, demographic data and student interest, Dr. Montañez said.
Other courses include English as a Second Language (ESL), conversational English, and citizenship. Many classes are free; each CTE course carries a modest fee (from $25 to $250) for a full program that produces a certification. The school provides training, college resources and help with job placement.
A nurturing climate also is key: “We work diligently to foster positive relationships with students," the principal said, “which translates into higher learner persistence."
Mexicali-born Ms. Hernandez, who migrated to the United States in 1965 at age 18, has modeled that persistence. As a young woman, she made carpets in a factory for 65 cents an hour, then packed vegetables for a living, and eventually joined the shipping center at her husband's company.
After her retirement, the mother of four began attending classes at Jurupa Adult School, earning her diploma at age 71. Dr. Montañez explained:
“It was her dream to get her high school diploma. All of her sisters and brothers have a diploma. She was the only one in her family without a diploma. She completed her diploma in six months. She would study every night until 3 o'clock in the morning. She was determined."
Mr. Kavanaugh, meanwhile, quit school in 2001 to start a career in carpentry. Almost two decades later, he earned his diploma – and was the featured speaker at the adult school's graduation ceremony in May.
In his speech, Mr. Kavanaugh recalled his father, who passed away in 2015, begging him to finish high school. The younger Kavanaugh agreed, but deferred the task, until the day his own son lobbed some questions about educational attainment.
“I have these two little boys following in my footsteps and I must set the example," he said. “I re-enrolled in the adult education program while working full time and completed seven courses in three months with the support of my family."
Dr. Montañez said:
“Sean was asked to speak at graduation because of his determination and his commitment to finish. He had so many different obstacles with family issues and his job; however, he never allowed that to set him back. He would complete schoolwork during lunchtime, late at night, and on weekends. Sean dedicated his diploma to his late father."
The principal praised both students as proof that it's never too late to earn a diploma, develop new skills, and attain longtime goals.
While adult students return to school for different reasons, Dr. Montañez said, they all seek a better life for themselves and their families – and gain confidence along with skills. “Education becomes the true equalizer," she said. “Doors open for them which would not otherwise because of their newly acquired education and skill set."
In his graduation speech, Mr. Kavanaugh said, “As I stand before you today, I have proven a lot of people wrong about the accomplishments I would have in life. Today I am a high school graduate. Today I can tell my sons, 'I have my diploma.' Today I can tell my dad, 'I did it!'"
For more information on Jurupa Adult School classes, call (951) 222-7739.
Start dates for upcoming courses include: