As a teenager growing up in the 1960s, Connie Valverde had dreams of earning an education, starting a family and making a life for herself in the United States. Living in the heart of Mexico in Puebla City, roughly 86 miles south of Mexico City, Valverde seemed to be in route to achieving her goals when she was suddenly forced to withdraw from the Mexican school system.
According to Valverde, her exit from education was a result of her family’s socioeconomic status.
“In Mexico, you were required three uniforms for school. At that time my mom could not afford to pay for those uniforms,” Valverde said. “Even though my mom was a seamstress, she could not make them for me because they had to be factory made.”
Instead of going to school, Valverde helped her mother by working. Despite being forced to give up on one dream, however, Valverde did accomplish her other goals — moving to the United States at age 17 and marrying at 18 before going on to give birth to three sons.
But some dreams can’t be killed, they can only be delayed.
Flash forward to May 3, 2017, more than 50 years after Valverde stopped pursuing an education, and the former student who couldn’t afford her school uniforms is in the Turlock Adult School office buying a cap and gown. Valverde, now a 68-year-old resident of Patterson, is on the precipice of realizing a lifelong dream — graduating with a high school diploma.
“School has been something that I really desired. But things in life stopped me from doing that until now,” Valverde said. “Now that I’m by myself, single again, and with the time ahead of me, I said I need to do this. It was something that was on my bucket list.”
Although she had longed to earn a high school diploma for most of her life, it took a divorce and a job application requirement for Valverde to actively chase her dream. After trying to apply to Costco and seeing that the company required a high school diploma, Valverde decided she had waited long enough. She travelled back to Mexico and earned the country’s equivalent of a high school diploma before setting her sights back on the United States.
“After I did that someone told me to get my GED. I said no, I want a high school diploma,” Valverde said. “I started investigating and I came to Turlock Adult School. My counselor told me it was going to take me a long time. I said I have the time, I just want to accomplish this. I want a cap and gown and a full graduation. That was my desire.”
Three years of classes and 180 credits later and Valverde is about to realize that desire when she and 119 other Turlock Adult School students gather for their graduation ceremony at the Turlock Community Auditorium on Wednesday.
“It was hard at times, but with the help of my teachers and counselors and everyone at this school I made it through,” Valverde said. “I wanted to be an example for my grandkids and great-grandkids.”
In an almost fortuitous turn of events, Valverde’s graduation will be more than just an example for her grandchildren, it will also be a shared moment of achievement as she becomes a member of the class of 2017, alongside her second-oldest grandson Daniel, who is set to graduate from Patterson High School.
“It’s an honor. It’s really an honor. I regret not doing it sooner, but life gives you the time and the season. And here I am,” Valverde said. “Age has no limits. Education has no limits.”