Maria began as an ELLA student at Paradise Valley Mall. Despite being in a marriage in which she was discouraged from attending class, she was passionate about education. She advanced in her language skills until the violence in her marriage forced her to quit.
Approximately two years later Maria was back at Rio Salado College, this time as a GED student at Northern. She was now living in a home sponsored by a women’s foundation. Every day, she took two buses to get to class and every day she was pleased and grateful to be given the opportunity to continue her education.
Eventually, she made enough progress toward the GED that she was eligible to apply for the Adult ACE Program. During the application process, students meet in the computer lab to set up an online student account. Maria was so unfamiliar with computers that she was afraid to move the mouse! It was clear that she would have to develop some computer skills or else would not be able to get through AACE or any other kind of college program.
Ever determined, Maria found out that Goodwill Industries offered free classes in basic computer skills. Again, she spent a great deal of time negotiating public transportation, and because the classes were offered on a first-come first-served basis, she arrived at least a half hour before the start of class so that she was assured of getting a seat. She attended the computer skills class several hours a week for two months. When not in class, she practiced typing, using a free online site. Little by little, she gained basic computer skills. Without persistence, and her passion for education, these seemingly small accomplishments would not have been possible.
In spring of 2012, Maria started the AACE Program. She earned an A in her first class, Strategies for College Success. The next class, Basic Arithmetic, was a struggle for her, but she put in many hours with the tutor. She finished the class with a B. During her third class, she was informed by the staff of the women’s organization that her time in the home would be ending soon. She would not be allowed to continue with AACE because the organization felt that in order for her to gain self-sufficiency, she would have to find a job as soon as possible. She was devastated. But a person like Maria Gomes is never defeated. She immediately began researching training programs in nurse assisting.
Maria had worked for several years as a physical therapist assistant in Africa. Her goal was to eventually gain the training to be eligible for work in this field in the U.S. A program at Pima Medical Institute would be the quickest program of study. The quicker that she could complete a program, the quicker she could get out and find work. By a stroke of luck, Maria was introduced to the director of a foundation devoted to supporting and encouraging women in gaining an education. Maria was awarded a full tuition scholarship through the Halle Foundation.
Maria spent four hours round-trip in commuting to get to the campus in Mesa. But she remained positive and upbeat as ever. She used the time to study and to prepare her mind for the school day. She completed the nurse assisting program in two months. She passed the program exam and then went on to pass the state board of nurse assisting certification exam. The women’s shelter staff saw that Maria was taking giant strides towards independence. They were happy to have Maria as a role model for other women. Maria has now found her first job and is ready to move into her own apartment. For Maria Gomes, 2013 has been a big year. In addition to completing her certificate and finding employment, she was inducted into the National Adult Honor Society. She also became a U.S. citizen. She says, “I started my new life at Rio Salado College. I had the seed and the potential. But if there is no soil and no seed, nothing will grow. Rio Salado gave me the opportunity to grow. So now I have strong roots and the fruit will be harvested. I have all the tools to succeed. When I think about it, what if there had not been any help from anybody? What if I had never heard of Rio Salado College?”