My Journey

One student's experience in earning her GED

In August 2018, during Older Student Registration, students Carol Chester and Gail Johnston, with guidance from Joanne Jaber Gauvin from the Urban Action Institute, initiated the Older Student Writing Project (OSWP). The goal of the project was to collect personal essays written by older students and to have them printed in a university publication. The purpose of the project was to highlight the work of older students, showing that they add to the diversity of the WSU community.

By Margarita Oquendo

In 2009, at the age of 52, I embarked on a journey, unsure where it would take me. The ship on which I traveled stopped at many ports, but I remained on board, fearing the ship would leave me behind, and I would be stuck in nowhere land. There were times when the voyage was turbulent, but I held on until the storm ceased. After spending four years at sea, I finally arrived at my destination. I received my General Equivalency Diploma (GED).

Years before my journey began, I moved with my family from New York to Worcester. It was 1972 and I was 14 years old. During my sophomore year at North High School, I took advantage of an after-school program, working for an insurance agency as a file clerk. I liked the job so much, I dropped out of school. In 1974, I got married. During the years that followed, I raised three children.

After raising a family, I came to a point in my life where I felt unfulfilled. For years, I had dedicated my life to fulfilling the needs of others. Now I was yearning to do something for myself. In 2009, I enrolled in the GED program at Quinsigamond Community College. From February to June, I took classes three times a week. In October, I took my first GED exam. Unfortunately, I did not pass the math section on the test.

Though feeling discouraged, I refused to give up. After repeating a math class at QCC, I took the GED exam again. Once again, I did not pass the test. Upset and frustrated, I started to believe I was dumb and would never accomplish anything. However, given time, I pulled myself together, more determined than ever to succeed. Knowing where my weak points lay, I worked with teachers at QCC to improve my math skills.

In June 2013, I took the GED exam again. Anxiously, I waited for the results to arrive in the mail. Every day, I checked my mailbox. Finally, an envelope appeared. Should I open it? Will I suffer disappointment? Opening the envelope, my eyes immediately went to the score: 514. I only needed 510 to pass. Just to make sure, I kept reading: “We are happy to announce that…”
Finally, my dream had come true. Soon I would be walking down the aisle in my cap and gown to receive my diploma.

From my experience I have learned: never let that negative voice in your head tell you that “you are done,” that “you are too old,” or that “you are not smart enough.” My journey continues. Currently, I am working toward a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Worcester State University. My goal is to earn a graduate degree and stand in front of many people to tell them, “It’s never too late.”

Margarita Oquendo considers herself a nontraditional student. At the age of 16, she dropped out of school to work. A year later, she got married. After raising a family, she enrolled in the General Equivalency Diploma program at Quinsigamond Community College in Worcester, earning a GED in 2013. Currently she is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in psychology at Worcester State University.

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