This spring, after four and a half years of hard work, including working jobs both before and after school every day, Gloria Juarez Barron will earn her diploma from Ferguson High School, accomplishing something no one else in her family has done before her: Earning a high school diploma.
“Seeing other people graduate, it’s something that I wanted to do too,” Gloria says. “I wanted to be proud of myself. Having a diploma really helps you a lot.”
From Language Barriers to Academic Success
Gloria started school at Winona Elementary, where she learned for the first time that not everyone spoke the same language she did. As a native Spanish speaker, Gloria found elementary school difficult at first.
“It was challenging to come to school and not speak the same language as everyone else,” Gloria recalls. “One time I was in first grade and I was speaking to a friend, and this boy came up and was laughing at me because she didn’t speak Spanish. I didn’t even realize it.” It didn’t take Gloria long to learn English and soon she was feeling more comfortable with her peers, but the biggest challenges were yet to come.
At Mountain View High School, Gloria says she struggled with staying focused and surrounding herself with good influences.
“It was rough. I was really distracted by friends, and the classes are bigger. The subjects were hard for me to follow,” she says. “I started ditching a lot, which caused me to get held back a year.”
Gloria was also missing a lot of school because her family was having financial challenges and needed Gloria’s help. The high school student was working at Loveland Steam Laundry early mornings before school and then spending her evenings working at a cell phone provider after school.
“I needed to go to work and help my mom with bills,” Gloria explains. “I would rather have helped my mom than be in school.”
Gloria Juarez Barron Working Hard to Achieve Her Goals
But Gloria still had goals, and when a Mountain View principal suggested she look into attending Ferguson High School, Gloria was excited that there was an alternative way to finish school. With its smaller classes and more individualized support, Ferguson was a good fit for her.
“The biggest motivator was that I would be the first in my family to graduate high school,” she said, adding that neither her parents nor any of her three older siblings has finished school. “I wanted to earn the diploma. It’s nice knowing that you worked hard for what you got instead of just taking the easy way out.”
Gloria was able to finish all of her credits as of last December, and is spending the spring working two jobs to earn money for further studies. While she was at Ferguson, Gloria was also able to complete the medical assisting program at Thompson Career Campus, as well as the Certified Nursing Assistant program. She hopes to eventually work in pediatrics and become a Registered Nurse.
And though she has faced many obstacles on her path to graduation, Gloria says she wouldn’t change anything.
“Since it took me so much and it was so hard, I’m so proud of it,” she says. “It’s not something I would recommend anyone else do, but it made me who I am.”
What Gloria would encourage other students facing challenges to do is stick with it.
“If you have the opportunity to graduate, work for it, because it’s going to help you in the long run,” she says. “It’s really not that hard: You show up, you put in the effort, and even if you don’t like it, you just push through. It’s something you will always be proud of.”
Portrait of a Graduate
Seeks career pathways and opportunities