SACRAMENTO -- Last week, 58-year-old Jesús Estrada accomplished one of his most cherished dreams: to get his high school certificate.
Estrada, who came to California as a child from his native Zacatecas, had to drop out of school in México because his parents asked him to work to help out the family financially. Shortly after that, and with no other option, his family immigrated to California. Here, Estrada started working in agriculture -- a job he has been doing for more than 30 years.
But in his mind, he always kept the dream alive of some day finishing high school and going to college.
"Well I accomplished a wish that I've been pursuing for so long; I got discouraged many times and used to think that it wouldn't be possible, but now I realize that everything is possible regardless of age. What matters is the effort you put into anything you want to accomplish," said Estrada, a father of five.
But Estrada's ambitions are not limited to getting his high school certificate; he wants to pursue a college education.
"I would like to study something in administration and I will put my best effort forward because I want to better my life and the life of my family," said Estrada, who currently lives in Stockton.
Estrada was one of the 62 students that graduated last week from the High School Equivalency Program during a ceremony held at California State University, Sacramento.
"I appreciate the opportunity that this program has given me. When I was younger I never gave education any importance but as time went by, I realized that without an education you can never get a good job, doors will always be closed to you," said Iván Cruz, another graduate.
Alexander González, president of Sacramento State University, was the guest of honor during the ceremony who congratulated the graduates for their work and dedication in completing their education.
"This is a special day since we celebrate your accomplishments, the goals of a lifetime. Thank you for the great contribution you have done for California's well being," González told them.
The High School Equivalency Program was founded on 1993, thanks to the contributions of the University's Cultural Resources Center and College Education. Their mission is to give adults that work in the fields, an opportunity to finish their studies.
There are other 44 schools nationwide that have the same program and mission.
"When I see so many paisanos (countrymen) here, I realize what a bad business immigration is; one can see what a loss it is for México that you had to leave your country to come here to accomplish your goals," Carlos González Gutiérrez, México's Consul in Sacramento told the graduates.
He continued to tell them that they were an example of pride and ambition, and their example is not only valuable to their children and families but also to the people that serve México in other countries.
To participate in the program, students need to be 17 years or older, and both, the applicant and their parents, should have worked in agriculture for at least 75 days, two years prior to their application.
Classes are completely free and cover 5 areas of study in GED in English and Spanish. Classes are offered in the following Northern California schools: Woodland Community College; Anderson Elementary in Dixon; Winters High School; Worknet Center in Lodi; and, El Concilio in Stockton.
Classes open every week and last six months. The program is designed for 180 students. So far, the program has helped 3,000 students since 1993.
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