It’s been more than 10 years since Jessica Martinez was a student at Harlingen High School, but earlier this year, she decided to take three tests she needed to earn her high school diploma.
“I have always wanted to get my diploma, not necessarily my GED,” Martinez said. “I know it’s kind of the same thing. They are equivalent to each other, but this was a different accomplishment for me.”
She decided to get her diploma for herself, for her family, but especially for her mother.
“My mom is a schoolteacher and growing up she went to night school and worked all day just to make sure that she was able to support us,” Martinez said. “School is something that I always wanted to do for her. And I wanted it to be a surprise because I have always told her that I was going to go get my GED, or that I was going to go do this or do that, but I would never go and do it. Something always came up. Life always happened.”
She learned about the opportunity to retest for her diploma after seeing a friend share her experience on social media. This led her to contact the HCISD Parental Involvement Office.
After finding out what she needed to obtain her diploma, she decided to take a chance and complete all three pending tests on the same day.
“They told me I had to wait for the end of the school year to test and to see if I passed,” Martinez said.
In May, Martinez surprised her mother dressed in a red cap and gown and with a diploma in hand.
“The look on my mom’s face, it’s a feeling I can’t describe,” Martinez said. “It’s an experience I can’t describe because it was very emotional for me. She was just in shock and in that moment right there, I knew it was worth everything.”
Holding the diploma made Martinez feel like a new person.
“As much as people say that experience will get you places, so do degrees and certifications,” she said. “But in order for me to get there, I needed that piece of paper. That piece of paper, it defines a small part of me, and I feel that now that I’ve closed that chapter, I can move on with my life.”
Now that she has her diploma, Martinez hopes to further her education and pursue opportunities in healthcare.
“I do want to start school sometime this fall,” Martinez said.
She expressed gratitude to the parental involvement office for assisting her in accomplishing one of her and her mom’s dreams.
“I really appreciate Dr. Cavazos and the staff there for giving me this opportunity,” she said. “I had no idea that this was even a possibility. I never in a million years thought that I could get my actual high school diploma.”
She left the following words of advice for students.
“Do not give up,” Martinez said. “The opportunity is there and even though you might feel right now that something is out of reach, there are people out there that are willing to help you. Keep striving. The sky is literally the limit. That is exactly how I feel right now.”