On the Record: Elizabeth Sanchez

Story by Era Sundar, Editor in ChiefPhoto by Clarissa Peereboom, Photo Editor

ACC student Elizabeth Sanchez quit school in the third grade. Nearly 30 years later she is working to get her education back on track. Sanchez spoke to Accent about the circumstances that caused her to leave school and the career she is now pursuing.

ACCENT: Why didn’t you finish high school?

SANCHEZ: When I was in third grade in the Philippines, my mother got sick and I had to quit school to help her. Even after she got better, I just never had a chance to go back. I continued to help financially by working and then after that I was just too embarrassed to go back to school.

ACCENT: What kind of work were you able to get without a high school diploma?

SANCHEZ: I farmed rice and worked as a street vendor. When I first came to the United States, I was 21 and wasn’t sure what kind of work I could get. I went to cosmetology school and worked as a licensed manicurist for several years. I worked for the light company and then owned my own business. It was a Filipino grocery and coffee shop.

ACCENT: With all that success, what led you to take the GED preparation course at ACC?

SANCHEZ: Even though I owned my own business, in the back of my mind, something was still missing. I wasn’t quite happy because I wanted that diploma.

ACCENT: What was it like going back to school?

SANCHEZ: During registration the form asked for your highest level of education. The lowest grade listed was fourth grade, so I wasn’t sure what to circle. I was starting from scratch. Having only gone to third grade, I didn’t even know how to write an essay. But the teachers were very kind and patient.

ACCENT: How long did it take you to get your GED diploma?

SANCHEZ: It took me approximately a year and a half. I started in October 2010 and I received my diploma in April last year.

ACCENT: The test is changing from paper to a completely computerized format. How do you think the change will affect students?

SANCHEZ: I would have had a hard time because I didn’t learn about computers before. It would work with the younger students, but I have seen elderly people try to go back to school and I think they would have a hard time.

ACCENT: Do you have any advice for those who are planning to take the GED test?

SANCHEZ: If I can do it with my background, anybody can; they just have to be committed and apply themselves.

Editor’s Note: This interview has been condensed and edited.

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