Americans promote the ideas of individualism, independence, and personal rights. At times there are good reasons to set these aside for the good of others and it is heroic.
Leslie Estrada Burgos is a hero. She was a high school drop-out not because she wanted to be, not because she couldn’t do the work, not because she was a troubled young person but because she cared for others.
“I liked school but during my freshman year of high school my mom became a single mother raising me and my five siblings,” explained Leslie. “I was the oldest. My mom worked as a caregiver and often had erratic shifts–a lot of them at night. I had to care for my siblings, so I missed a lot of school.”
By the time she should have been a junior or senior in high school, she had missed too many days and lacked the number of credits to be able to complete the requirements for her high school diploma so she was recommended to get a GED® credential.
“I was sad because I wanted to graduate but I had to help my mom raise my siblings, so I focused on that,” she said. “I encouraged them to do their work and finish school. I told them whatever they needed I was there for them. When each of them graduated, I celebrated too.”
Slowly over the years, Leslie watched each of her sisters and brothers as well as many cousins complete and graduate from high school. She continued to keep the dream of completing her high school diploma in her heart.
“I wanted to study for my GED but I just couldn’t get financially stable enough on my own to take the time to do it.” As Leslie grew older, she got married and had a baby girl, Mariana. Now time was in even shorter supply. At first it was childcare and chores that reduced her free time and then, Mariana was diagnosed with autism.
“I couldn’t see how that might help my dream of going back to school. My daughter was getting so many appointments that I thought I wasn’t going to have enough time to go to school due to work, having to be a full-time mom and having a busy schedule, but it turned out, I was able to go to school because there were classes that could fit in between my daughter’s schedule and my schedule,” Leslie said. “As Mariana became involved in therapies and programming, I recognized an opportunity that gave me the time during those sessions.”
At 26, Leslie enrolled at Central Oregon Community College. “I wanted to complete my goal of getting my GED before I turned 30. I set this goal because I believed it was a motivation for me to complete it sooner. My husband said to go for it. I knew I had his support and the support of my siblings.”
“The staff there was amazing and so supportive. They gave me all the resources I needed, some in class and some for independent work. One of the courses that helped me so much was KET’s FastForward. It has all the subjects required for taking the GED test, but it especially helped me in math”, Leslie said.
Leslie completed her high school equivalency credential in early May and earned six college credits while she studied for it. Now Leslie has completed the college’s community health worker certification program and has a goal of becoming a Certified Medical Assistant or Phlebotomist.
“I have a huge white board where I write down my goals and it has been so great to see them being crossed off one at a time,” she says.
To celebrate, Leslie and Mariana, who just graduated from preschool, are planning a graduation party. “She has a cap and gown from her preschool graduation and I am going to have a sash that says ‘class of 2022’!” The siblings Leslie helped raise and encourage will be there to celebrate too. In the meantime, Leslie is going about sharing her appreciation for all the teachers and staff who have helped and continue to support her dreams.
KET is proud to play a small part in Leslie’s accomplishments by producing the FastForward online study system and is grateful for the opportunity to work with Central Oregon Community College. For more information about FastForward and other resources produced by KET, visit KET.org/AdultEd. For more information on adult learning opportunities at Central Oregon Community College visit their website.