Alejandra Canales is SBLC’s first learner to belong to two different graduation classes. Alejandra earned her high school diploma in 2013, but was diagnosed with cancer and could not make it to her ceremony. However, when she recovered in 2015, SBLC staff reached out to her and invited her to participate in that year’s graduation ceremony. “I was really touched by that act of kindness,” she shares.
When Alejandra was young, her family fled from violence in Nicaragua and immigrated to the U.S. to find better jobs, eventually gaining her U.S. citizenship in 1982. She originally enrolled in classes at SBLC in 2005, but had to take a break to take care of her sick mother.
Alejandra returned to SBLC in 2011 with renewed determination. While at SBLC she had an instructor encourage learners to “find their passion.” She says he helped her discover that she really likes math. “You learn things about yourself,” she shares. “It makes you feel stronger and more successful.”
Alejandra works in the housekeeping department at St. Agnes Hospital. Now that she is healthy again, she plans on enrolling at Community College of Baltimore County. She wants to improve her English and take computer science classes to follow her passion for math and gain better employment.
“I just got comfortable with the fact I did not finish school,” Pamela Robinson shared with the Class of 2016 during her graduation speech. “Over the years I went from job to job until I found a job I liked, settled in, and said I would do this until I retired.”
But she could not settle for long. After years of working as a laundry attendant, Pamela, 62, could no longer keep up with the physical demands of her job and it was costing her health-wise. She knew that in order for her to get another job, she needed to get her high school diploma.
Growing up, Pamela would often miss school and fall behind in her classes. “When you fall behind in things, it’s hard to catch up,” she explained during her speech. After years of feeling discouraged in school, in addition to the added responsibilities of having a child at a young age, Pamela decided to drop out and get a job when she was in the 10th grade.
Pamela tried to go back to school many times over the years. However, whenever she would start, she would soon get discouraged or some difficulty would arise and she would quit. When she decided to get her high diploma at SBLC after being unable to keep up with her job, she came with a renewed perseverance. Originally starting in GED™ classes, she came in on Saturdays and worked with her tutors to bring her math scores up, eventually retesting and qualifying for the National External Diploma Program. “I fought my fear of failing and being discouraged, I fought the fear of being the oldest student in the class,” she reflected.
Now that she has her high school diploma, Pamela is currently enrolled in the Baltimore School of the Bible and is working towards becoming ordained minister.