Celebrating Success: Rio Salado's High School Equivalency Graduation Ceremony


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Friday, July 7, 2023
President Smith posing with the student speakers
image of graduates posing with a staff member
Attendees and HSE graduates listen to a speaker at the podium during the graduation ceremony

The recent Rio Salado College High School Equivalency (HSE) graduation celebration recognized the achievements of 244 students who earned their HSE diplomas during the past academic year. Held in late June, the ceremony marked a significant milestone in their lives and highlighted the dedication and perseverance of these graduates. 

Mother & Daughter Accomplishment

During the ceremony, several inspiring student speakers shared their personal stories of triumph and transformation. Tracy Merideth shared her journey of overcoming addiction and finding hope through education. 

I finally hit rock bottom at age 34. I lost my kids to the system, lost my house, my car and my kids’ dad left,” she said. “I made a decision to fight for my life and work hard on my destructive habits.”

After learning about Rio through her recovery coach, she entered the online program during COVID and later transitioned to in-person classes at the Northern campus. She expressed gratitude to the staff there.

“I'm forever grateful for the last two years they spent encouraging me because I was a handful,” she said.

Staff believed in her, she said, and helped her navigate the challenges of childcare, bills, and maintaining her recovery. At the ceremony, Merideth also celebrated the graduation of her daughter, Kaylee Robinson, symbolizing the power of resilience and the impact of education on multiple generations.

Her mom inspired her, Robinson said, to pursue her own high school diploma.

“I saw my mom started getting hers before I did and it gave me more confidence,” Robinson said. “I took those last two tests, giving every effort I could in that one day. I walked out thinking I failed, and just cried when I saw I passed.

She offers this advice for future students: “Once you pass the math test, nothing else is scary. Do your worst subject first, the one you think you can’t do, and everything else will be more positive.” 

Robinson wants to pursue a degree in law or forensic science and is now working on the next steps. Merideth is continuing her education, seeking a behavioral health sciences degree at Glendale Community College.

Brother & Sister Find Next Steps Through Rio

Cassandra and Gael Munoz highlighted the obstacles they faced seeking a future in the U.S. Cassandra shared how her high school diploma from Mexico was not recognized, which led her to pursue the HSE program at Rio Salado. Her brother, Gael, determined to overcome similar hurdles, joined her in this pursuit. Together, they found Rio Salado's adult education and career training programs.

We knew this was a good fit to align with the short and long term goals we set for ourselves and even better when we learned they were opening a new West-MEC Southwest location close to home in Buckeye,” Cassandra Munoz said during the ceremony.

“We came from Mexico pursuing a dream: to get into college and build a future of our own,” Gael said.

Just three months after starting the program, they completed their HSE and retail fundamental certification programs. They are now enrolled in Rio Salado as college students to finish business associate degrees and transfer to ASU in the future. Cassandra is seeking a career as a sustainable design architect, and Gael wants to be CEO of his own business.

It is our hope to be able to give back to our family and to the community that has supported us throughout this journey,” Gael Munoz said.

Cassandra and Gael were two of 34 adult learners to earn one or more industry-recognized credentials alongside their high school equivalency diploma.

The Impact of Rio Salado's Adult Education Program

Rio Salado College's adult education program plays a pivotal role in transforming the lives of students. With a focus on high school equivalency (GED® test preparation), English language, and career training classes, the program provides a comprehensive pathway to academic and professional success for individuals aged 16 and above. Rio Salado's adult education program, in partnership with the Arizona Department of Education, gives students the opportunity to complete their HSE and pursue industry-recognized credentials or further education. Many are adults who faced various challenges in their lives, such as leaving high school early to care for loved ones, to contribute to their family income, or just struggled to find a good fit in traditional high school settings. Merideth and the Munoz siblings are just a few examples of the program's success stories, demonstrating the possibilities that education can unlock.

Congratulations to the graduates of 2023, and may your success continue to inspire others on their educational journeys.

If you’re interested in pursuing Adult Education classes at Rio, talk to our team at (480) 517-8110 or fill out this Request For Information form.

Watch the HSE Graduation slideshow here.


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