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Where Are They Now Alumni Profile - Meet Jennifer McDaniel

photo of Jennifer McDaniel with Rio Salado College logo and text: Where Are They Now? Meet Jennifer McDaniel

Where Are They Now Alumni Profile - Meet Jennifer McDaniel

Single Mom Inspired by Mom’s Own Educational Journey

For Jennifer McDaniel, earning her high school equivalency diploma in 2020 was more than a graduation. It was the realization of dreams, and proof that determination and perseverance can overcome the hardships life brings.

“I completed the GED test preparation program at Rio Salado College in 2020,” McDaniel said. “It was a long road for me to get to this point. I saw my first-born son graduate and was so proud. I longed for that feeling of walking down the stage and accomplishing this major part of life.”

McDaniel’s graduation goal stemmed from a turbulent childhood.

“I grew up in what seemed like a picture-perfect family,” McDaniel said. “At age 11 it turned into a nightmare. At 13 my father died. My stepfather went to prison for abusing me. My mother became a single parent raising four kids overnight.”

While McDaniel didn’t know it at the time, her mother’s life path would foreshadow her own.  

“My mother was 36 years old and getting her GED,” McDaniel said. “She had to work two jobs. She had to overcome so many obstacles and sacrificed a lot for all of us. I was so proud of her. I know I didn't make it easy for her.”

At 16, McDaniel left home; at 19, she was married with a baby on the way.

“The following year came baby number two and then my marriage failed,” McDaniel said. “At 26, I now stood in my mother’s shoes with four kids, no diploma and single. I had to fight every day to give my kids a safe, comfortable home.”

To improve her family’s economic well-being, McDaniel enrolled in Rio Salado’s GED test preparation program at the college’s Downtown location.

“I chose Rio because I knew they offered many programs,” McDaniel said. “Rio is a trusted name in Arizona. I knew I would be offered the best education to advance myself and my career.” 

Today, McDaniel is taking classes for her bachelor’s degree in nursing.

“I applied for nursing school in 2020 and was accepted and started the program two weeks later,” McDaniel said. “I am currently halfway through the program and have maintained A's in all classes, except one B in biology. I went from no education or diploma to a 4.0 GPA student.”

McDaniel is already contemplating her career options when she completes her bachelor’s program.

“I'm leaning in a few different directions,” McDaniel said. “I love the idea of forensic nursing. My heart has always been with mental health patients.  I want to go where the help is greatly needed and be there for people when they need help.”

Just as her mother before her, McDaniel is serving as a role model to her own children. 

“My kids are now 20, 18, 15, 14, and 8,” McDaniel said. “They are my number one supporters who watched me through this process. I am so proud of who they are.”

McDaniel is also proud to be a Rio Salado graduate.

“Rio was amazing,” McDaniel said. “It was so nice to walk in and not feel judged. I was 39 when I walked through Rio’s doors. I was 39 when I left Rio, but I left a better me. I could hold my head up high and knew I did it. Without Rio’s classes I wouldn't be where I am at today. You can truly get it done with Rio.”

See all the adult education programs offered by Rio Salado College and how they can help you make a change in your life.

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