BY JAYNE T. FLORES
I just finished writing Guam Community College’s 2014–2015 Annual Report, “The Stories Within.” One of my favorite stories is that of Genevie Chiguina, who was a custodian at GCC for several years through Advance Management Inc.
Genevie dropped out of high school at age 17 to have her daughter, Genaray. Three other children followed, so going back to school was not an option. At age 17, Genaray followed in mom’s footsteps, also dropping out to give birth. In June 2010, at age 33, mom came to work at GCC. As she walked the campus, cleaning classrooms, bathrooms and other areas, she paid attention to the students.
“This looks like fun,” she thought. “I think I should go back to school.”
So Genevie started asking questions of the staff — what to do if she wanted to get her high school diploma; who she should see. She took the GED test but did not pass it. She didn’t give up, though, and instead said, “Let me just try the Adult High, take classes there.”
Genevie enrolled in GCC’s Adult High School program and started taking classes at night. She said that when the GCC staff and administrators found out she was going back to school, they were very encouraging, telling her they were happy for her and encouraging her to continue on.
“They said what I’m doing is really good,” she said. It was good, but it wasn’t easy.
“My first semester was really hard because I would work 7 a.m. to 3 p.m., then I was taking four classes a day, 6 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., Monday through Thursday. I started from the bottom,” Genevie said. Yet she saw the value in earning her diploma. She even encouraged Genaray to go back to school too.
“Yes, my mom influenced me,” said Genaray, who has a 3-year-old and a 1-year-old. “She said, ‘You should go back.’”
In May of this year, both mother and daughter graduated from GCC’s Adult High School program — mom at the top of her class. What is even better is that Genevie is continuing her education and working toward her associate degree in Early Childhood Education.
“I thank my family for helping me, and even my coworkers, especially my boss, Anthony Guerrero at Advance Management, for working on my schedule for me to take classes. He really helped me and encouraged me, too,” Genevie said.
Genaray recently passed the Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery test and is deciding whether to enlist or continue on with her education, or both.
The moral of this story is that, in part, because of the encouragement she received at work and from GCC, Genevie broke her family’s cycle of generational high school dropouts. Three of her four children have now graduated, and her youngest is still in middle school.
So if you have someone in your office that you know did not finish high school, or who did graduate and would benefit from a postsecondary degree, encourage that person to enroll for spring semester 2016 now. If financing is an issue, they can apply for a federal Pell grant. If they qualify, Pell will pay for tuition and books, and often, there is some left over to buy a laptop, gas the car a few times — whatever someone needs to help them be successful in school.
Often times, a little encouragement is all someone needs to shine. And when they do, it’s better for all of us.
GCC spring semester enrollment is open through Jan. 6. Log onto www.guamcc.edu for registration details and course schedules.
— Jayne T. Flores is assistant director of communications and promotions for Guam Community College. She may be reached via email at [email protected]