Turlock Adult School has grown to the largest in Stanislaus County thanks to a federal grant and a welcoming attitude, say students who have tried and tried again.
“Without your diploma, all you’re going to find out there are little jobs that just have you living day to day, paying minimum wage,” Lupe Alvarez said.
Alvarez left school at 17 with a son to support. But at job after job, she looked on as people who were less capable moved ahead. “I’m a hard-working woman, but without a diploma, there’s no success,” she said.
She signed up at the adult school about five years ago and started classes to get a GED, but she did not do well. “I felt lost. I didn’t fit in. I felt dumb. Stupid. Just like I didn’t know anything anymore,” said Alvarez, 32.
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A government incentive program brought a skeptical Alvarez back to Turlock Adult School, and this time she has found her stride. With one year done, she has a 4.0 grade-point average and one year to go to get her high school diploma.
The difference, she says, is extra help and staff that make her feel valued. “The tutors – especially in algebra – if I had had tutors like this, I would have never dropped out,” she said Friday.
God has something out there for me. I can feel the hope in the air.
Lupe Alvarez, returning student
Starting in 2013-14, Turlock Adult School began expanding the number of classes it offers, adding teachers and course counselors through a $500,000 annual Title II grant to promote adult education, citizenship and family literacy, said Principal Isaias Rumayor Jr.
Rumayor took over as principal as the grant arrived and the school nearly doubled its teaching staff. About 1,400 adults enroll each semester. Under the terms of the grant, his pupils can come from anywhere in the area, not just within Turlock Unified’s boundaries.
Adults working toward a high school diploma or equivalency exam, learning English or preparing to take the U.S. citizenship exam pay nothing for their courses or testing. The school also offers community classes for a fee in various arts, crafts and technical skills.
Juana Gonzalez, 44, is among 20 students working toward citizenship. After 27 years living here, she will take her test Aug. 14.
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Juana Gonzalez, studying for her citizenship test
“It is my next challenge,” Gonzalez said, with some translation help from Rumayor. “I would like for my daughters to feel a little more proud of me,” she said, adding that her children, born here, convinced her she should do it in time to vote in 2016.
“I want to vote in the next election,” Gonzalez said in English. “I think now is my time.”
For Katie Cross, a lifetime of thinking she never could do schoolwork is over. “I love being here, learning different things. The tutors are great. The principal is great. I didn’t have that while I was in high school,” said Cross, who dropped out as a freshman.
At 35, she is a high school student once more, this time getting straight A’s and looking past the year she has left to get her diploma toward a career as a radiology technician.
I have kids. And I can’t say, ‘You go to school,’ when I didn’t.
Katie Cross, returning student
Cross’ oldest child is starting high school – the successful student she was not. “My son would never, ever be like I was at that age. He’s a good kid, does his chores, does his homework,” Cross said.
Alvarez’s son also is heading to high school, and being able to help him with homework is another goal for her. “I really have to be behind him. I want to be able to be that support for him,” she said.
These are the stories that fill Rumayor’s days and evenings. The school offers classes from 8:30 a.m. to 8:30 p.m., with Assistant Principal Linda Alaniz helping share the load.
Handmade airplanes made from soda cans hang from the high ceilings of Rumayor’s office in the historic brick building that houses Turlock Adult School on Canal Drive. Sitting at a small conference table, he contemplates the question of what comes next for the school.
First, he said, he needs to make sure the Turlock community has what it needs. Beyond that, the grant is meant to serve the needs of the region, wherever there is an empty classroom and adults eager to learn.
Turlock Adult School
When: Classes start Sept. 8. Registration begins Aug. 10 for community skills classes; Aug. 17 for classes to learn English; and Aug. 24 for work toward a high school diploma. Find a schedule at http://tas.turlock.k12.ca.us.
Where: Classes are given at most schools in Turlock, as well as community locations in south, west and north Turlock. The office is on the second floor of Turlock Unified School District, 1574 E. Canal Drive.