University Gives Second Chance to Area Hispanics

Published: October 03, 2014 | Author: Jessica Young | Category: Community Outreach

SUU student tutors a Spanish GED student.

Dropping out of high school and being told school isn’t a place for you is a story many tell from disadvantaged homes. But now years later Hispanic men and women in the Cedar City community with stories such as this are given a second chance by obtaining their GED through Southern Utah University’s Hispanic Center for Academic Excellence and the School of Continuing & Professional Studies Spanish GED program.

First time being offered to the Cedar City community, 60 students rushed through the doors to obtain an education they were never given, or gave up on, but now are coming back with vigor to create a bright future for themselves and their families.

With 52 percent of foreign born Latinos dropping out of high school, compared to the 25 percent of the native born, just one-in-ten Hispanic high school dropouts return to receive their General Educational Development (GED) credential, making it some 41 percent if Hispanics who do not have a high school diploma in the U.S. The GED is widely regarded as the best “second chance” pathway to college or vocational training, according to Pew Research Center.

“The GED gives our students a sense of freedom, now, they have a choice and they know where they want to be and what they want to do,” stated Carmen Alldredge instructor for the Spanish GED course. “This opens up the door of education for them and the many choices and blessings they will be able to access after passing the GED program. Some of them are even getting a better position at work resulting in better pay to advance further in their studies.”

Helping give this “second chance” to as many need it is Jonathan Puente, director of the Hispanic Center, who initiated SUU’s Spanish GED program along with Weber State University and Utah Valley University to create programs at each university, the first of its kind in the state.

Puente went on to say that the goal of the program is to get this component of the community an education, then matriculate them into a university as a full-time student, an idea for many that seemed out of reach until only a few months ago.

One of these students is Basilio Saldvar, who at the age of 55 decided it is now his time to reach for his dream of getting a degree

He said, “I realized that at my age and with my kids now out of the house, I needed to take the time and meet my goal. This will tell my family that I can meet my dreams and do something with my GED. I am also doing this to show my people that we can meet our goals.”

Saldvar is joined by many other students who see this chance of getting a GED an opportunity to change the lives of their families, like Juan Hernandez. With young daughter in tow, Hernandez along with his wife Tanya Torres, come to the semiweekly class with the hopes that their daughter will see the importance of education and will be proud of their efforts.

“Coming to a new country and learning a new language is very hard,” explained Hernandez. “But it is also very difficult to take a class while having a job and family, but I know this will make my daughter’s life better, and mine, so I’m not going to quit.”

With the majority of students knowing only conversational English, Alldredge and Puente decided it was best to offer the class in Spanish with the reasoning explained by Alldredge that lessons would be better understood in Spanish and each student once receiving their GED can easily transfer into the ESL program.

She stated further, “I am sure with these classes the desire to succeed and progress will burn in themselves giving them the necessary fuel to start the race, learn English and whatever else they want to accomplish.”

That desire is already burning in Trinidad Coria, who with his broken English began the GED course and is set to learn English so we can get a bachelor’s degree in computer science.

“This opportunity to get an education and to get ahead is great, I never had this chance before and I love it,” Coria said. “I hope this shows my family and kids that you can do whatever you put your mind to.”

Hoping to give each student a chance to better connect with their community and to no longer be limited by their inabilities, Puente said, “To have a full and happy life you need to be able to understand the world around you, right now these students don’t, but we are changing that. By helping them gain an education and learn English we are helping them obtain freedoms and grasp principles they couldn’t before, isn’t that what America is about?”

If you are interested in obtaining your GED and taking part in this program, contact Jonathan Puente at (435) 865-8726 or

Photo: An SUU student (left) Carson Chandler tutors another student pursuing her GED. 

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