Event seeks to empower and support non-traditional students to succeed

A gathering to impact non-traditional students who desire to change their lives through the attainment of their high school equivalency (GED) certificate, the 10th anniversary Fabulous Holiday Brunch GED Scholarship Fundraiser, was held Dec. 2 at the OMNI Hotel at the Colonnade. A majority of proceeds from the event fund an initiative with the Adult Learning Academy (ALA) at Palo Alto College and aid the GED Empowerment to College Endowment Scholarship. The Alamo Colleges Foundation serves as the fiduciary administrator of the funds, which aid with both annual and endowed scholarships to assist non-traditional students at any of the Alamo colleges.

The gathering was organized by Martha Tijerina — longtime San Antonio media personality and Catholic Television of San Antonio host — to provide resources for non-traditional students (individuals over 25 years of age or single parents) who are taking GED classes and do not have money to pay for the GED test. The first brunch, held in 2008, was attended by just 200 people, with these gatherings now attracting near 700 people annually.

As of this year, the fundraisers have collected more than a half-million dollars, of which $100,000 is an endowment fund.

Two hundred graduates from the program have taken part in commencement ceremonies at Palo Alto College. These graduates have the potential to increase their annual income up to $10,000 or more than those without a high school diploma. Over the past three years, more than 700 students have been assisted with one or all four subject exams required for the high school equivalency.

In his invocation and keynote remarks, Archbishop Gustavo García-Siller, MSpS, stressed the importance of education, saying it contributes to the good of the human person and society at large.
“In terms of the good of the individual, education contributes to the sense of dignity and the healthy pride of accomplishment for each person,” he explained. “The GED recognizes the work of the individual to learn and to apply themselves to the task of self-improvement. This becomes the fundamental gateway that opens many new doors of opportunity for each person who achieves it.”
He added that achieving the GED also helps the individual, and society at large, to grow past the bonds of poverty and deprivation, and enter a world where one’s work contributes to both the personal good and the building of society. “We know that workers who lack a GED or high school equivalency are much more likely to be trapped in economic poverty and in unstable families and neighborhood situations. It is very difficult to break the cycle of poverty once it is entered into. Teen pregnancy, single-parent families, and lack of opportunity plague our brothers and sisters in these environments, and the work of projects like this one help to break that cycle.”

Lastly, Archbishop Gustavo emphasized that those with a GED or high school equivalency are more likely to enter higher wage work opportunities, to build more stable families, and to encourage their own children to receive a full education. “This, in turn, creates more stable neighborhoods, schools, social institutions, and creates the possibility for even stronger achievement in the future.”

The San Antonio prelate continued by saying that while a GED or high school equivalency is good in a personal and socio-economic sense, there is another important dimension to consider; the human and spiritual dimension.

“Achieving the GED helps the individual and society to create a better world, a more human world, a kinder world, and a more loving world where human persons can encounter each other with a deeper respect and desire to learn from one another, and to be concerned for the wellbeing of the world at large,” he said.

The Missionary of the Holy Spirit praised the attendees at the event for helping to create a human being who sees, knows, and contributes to the world in a larger and grander way. “We are helping them to glimpse their own soul, and to be motivated to do something bigger than themselves!” he exclaimed. “We are helping them to know, feel, and express their humanity and their spirituality!”

The archbishop concluded by speaking directly to the benefactors for helping young people — or, sometimes not so young people — to achieve their GED. “This is a huge vocation! This is a gigantic challenge!” he acknowledged. “But this very challenge is what gives us hope to continue this great work! May God help us and bless us as continue this task!”

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