Sixty-two students from Sacramento State’s High School Equivalency Program (HEP) will receive their General Education Diplomas in a ceremony scheduled for 12:30 p.m. Friday, Aug. 19, in the University Union Ballroom.
CSUS-HEP was founded in 1993 with a grant awarded to Sacramento State’s Cross Cultural Resource Center and the College of Education. It is one of 44 federally funded educational programs nationwide designed to assist seasonal agricultural workers and their families in obtaining their GED, the equivalent of a high school diploma. HEP also helps students prepare for higher levels of education or training and for more stable and better-paying jobs.
Ivan Cruz is a testament to the program’s success. The 25-year-old says he “wasn’t really into school” when he was younger, but he found out how difficult things can be without an education. He applied for all kinds of jobs – fast food, clothing stores; more than 100 in all – but found the common thread was that all required more education than he had. An uncle reinforced that sentiment and encouraged Ivan to get into a program.
“I saw HEP and got into it and I haven’t stopped trying to stay in school,” Ivan says. “It really helped me get motivated to stay in school.”
CSUS-HEP participants must be 17 or older, and they or their parents must have worked at least 75 days in agricultural jobs over the two years before applying. Classes are year-round and run three hours, Monday through Friday. The free classes, which address the five subject areas of the GED in English and Spanish, are conducted at Woodland Community College, Anderson Elementary in Dixon, Winters High School, the Worknet Center in Lodi and El Concilio in Stockton.
New students enter each week, and most finish the program in four to six months. The program is designed to serve 180 participants, produce 135 GED graduates and support 108 college-bound students each year. CSUS-HEP, the only Spanish-English GED program in the project area that serves migrant and seasonal agricultural workers, has served nearly 3,000 students since 1993, with more than 1,400 earning GEDs. Students receive academic instruction and advising, assistance with job or postsecondary education placement, and health information. Typically, 60 percent of graduates annually are placed in postsecondary education programs, career positions or the military.
Study habits and time management are what Ivan, who began taking classes in Dixon about a year ago, says were the most valuable skills he gleaned from CSUS-HEP. His father, now nearly 60 years old, came to the United States at 13 to work in the fields, where he still toils. While Ivan says his family never explicitly discussed its wishes for him to have a less strenuous means of making a living, “I just knew they didn’t want to see me in the fields.”
He’s charting a new course now, as he’ll begin his second semester at Solano Community College this fall in pursuit of becoming an emergency medical technician and perhaps, eventually, a paramedic.
Among those attending graduation ceremonies will be Sacramento State President Alexander Gonzalez; Steven F. Arvizu, who founded the CCRC; and Mexican Consul General Carlos Gonzalez Gutierrez.
For more information about HEP, call (916) 278-5146 or visit their website at www.edweb.csus.edu/hep
– Ahmed V. Ortiz