celebrate education - brought to you by the amarillo globe-news
 

Dropouts go back for diplomas

By Sean Thomas
sean.thomas@amarillo.com

Two high school dropouts who want to set a good example for their children will take an important step next week.

Jesse Diaz and his wife, Liz Mireles, decided to go back to high school after dropping out in the 1990s. Diaz has two jobs, and Mireles works and does most of the raising for their three children, but they pledged to make education a priority.

They will graduate this month from the Flex program offered at Palo Duro High School.

"There is nothing else like a diploma; that is why we decided to go back and finish," said Mireles, who obtained a GED in 2001. "Back then, we were young and not mature. We didn't realize how important it is. Now that you have kids, you realize it is important and that it is why we chose to go back."

Mireles, 29, was a teen mother her senior year and did not graduate because of a poor attendance record. Diaz, 32, dropped out his senior year in 1994 after getting into fights and hanging out with "the wrong crowd."

They've spent afternoons and evenings plugging away at course work at their own pace. Diaz finished 17 classes from September to May. They juggled the schedule of children, after-school activities and work to earn their diplomas.

"It was pretty intense at first," said Diaz, owner of Anderson Auto Sales. "The stuff these kids have to know these days is far from what we had to know when I was going to school."

Flex coordinator Deb Nance, who has run the program since 2000, said it's designed to give a second opportunity to dropouts.

"They both came in with at least more than 15 classes to complete," Nance said. "Through dedication and hard work, they've been able to accomplish that and be able to graduate.

"It's not a miracle program. They will work for their grade. They set their minds to do it and supported each other."

The program has also inspired the couple to go into teaching.

Diaz is interested in becoming a substitute teacher. Mireles plans on attending Amarillo College in the fall and working toward becoming a counselor or teacher.

"I want to just try to inspire other kids to go back and stay in school," she said.

Editor's note: Beating the Odds is a series published in the Amarillo Globe-News from May 10-24 designed to tell the stories of all kinds of students who are graduating despite the challenges they've faced. It is part of Celebrate Education, a program designed to bring awareness to the need of educational attainment in the Texas Panhandle. For previous stories, visit www.celebrateeducation.org.

calendar of events
  • January 11
    Kickoff of 2009 Program
    Find out what Celebrate Education is all about in this special section in your Sunday paper.
  • March 7
    Regional Spelling Bee, West Texas A&M University
    The annual Regional Spelling Bee will feature the top spellers from the Amarillo area. The top five winners will receive scholarship money ranging from $500 to $5,000 and the winner will travel to Washington, D.C., in June to represent the area in the Scripps National Spelling Bee.
  • Spring and Fall
    Amarillo Reads community-wide reading projects.
    Dates and details TBA
  • April
    Amarillo Education Matching Grants Program. Exact date TBA
  • April 10
    What's a Kid to Do Special Section
  • April 12
    What's a Kid to Do at the Amarillo Civic Center
    This event will focus on activities and camps for children to participate in during the summer..
  • May 8-29
    Beating the Odds
    A series of stories published daily in the Amarillo Globe-News during the graduation season that profiles people who have inspiring stories to tell about the degree they are about to receive.
  • May 12
    Ready for the Real World program at Amarillo Civic Center
    AISD juniors get training on what's going to face them in a little more than a year.
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Special Section
  • May 16
    Best and Brightest Event at West Texas A&M University
  • Fall
    Discover College Day
    Fifth graders from area schools visit college campuses.
  • October 1
    Great Jobs Special Section
    Focusing on well paying jobs available in the area that people may not know about.
  • November 2
    Career Education Special Section
    Focusing on businesses and others in the community helping young people gain a career vision.
  • November
    Yes You Can Event
    Designed to help people gain information about the next level of education from GED to PhD. Date TBA.
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