In fall of 2018, Estefani Leyva, of Hope, Arkansas, arrived on the University of Arkansas Hope-Texarkana (UAHT) campus to explore the possibility of attaining her General Education Development Certificate (GED) with plans of becoming a pre-k teacher. “I made the bad decision of dropping out of high school my senior year,” said Leyva. “Shortly after that, I gave birth to my son, Ethan, and I went to work at a local grocery store as a cashier. It didn’t take long before I was promoted to the pharmacy tech position at the store.”
After several years of working, Estefani was encouraged by the store pharmacist to pursue her GED. “At first I laughed off the idea of going back to get a GED and didn’t think I was smart enough to pass the test, but in the back of my mind I knew I wanted a better job to provide a better life for my family,” Leyva said. Eventually, Estefani took her boss’s advice and signed up to take the TABE assessment exam at UAHT. “I was extremely nervous about taking the test, but I scored high enough to take the GED exam in every area except for math.”
Once she took her assessment exam and realized what area she needed tutoring in, Estefani began attending Mrs. May’s GED class to prepare for her official exam. “It was ironic that my first day of GED class happened to be my son’s first day of class in pre-k, and dropping him off at school that day motivated me to set a good example for him by seeing my goal through,” said Leyva. “As soon as I arrived on campus and met Mrs. May, I knew I made a good decision. She made me feel comfortable and welcome and literally met me outside of the classroom, waving to show me where to go. Once I made it to the classroom, I was also met with a warm welcome from all the other students taking the class. You could say we all became one big family.”
Over the next several months of attending Mrs. May’s class preparing to take the GED exam, Estefani was able to pass the test on her first attempt. “I never dreamed I would earn my GED and become a college student within a year,” Leyva said. “Now I am enrolled at U of A Hope where I am working on my Child Development Associate (CDA) Certificate of Proficiency, and I have accepted a job as a paraprofessional at a local school.”
“There is an old saying that says, ‘where there is a will, there is a way,’” Estefani said. “I believe that is true because if I can do this, anyone can. If you have a desire to better your future, there are people and programs at UAHT that can help you make it happen. I encourage everyone to explore what they have to offer.”
For more information about the GED program or other programs at U of A Hope-Texarkana, call 870-777-5722.