When you think of reasons that might prohibit one from reaching their educational potential, what comes to mind? Do language barriers, domestic violence, family obligations or homelessness make your list?
For Fabiola Regla Ramos, it wasn’t one but all of these setbacks that slowed her progress—but she refused to let them break her spirit. Now Fabiola is a role model for those experiencing similar obstacles and, perhaps more importantly, for her son and daughter.
Born and raised in Comala, Colima Mexico, Fabiola was brought to the U.S. against her wishes at the age of 14. Though she spoke no English, she was placed into mainstream classes due to a lack of school resources. It wasn’t long before she failed her classes, dropped out of high school and ran away to elope with her boyfriend.
But life didn’t turn out how she had hoped. “I suffered domestic violence for many years,” Fabiola recalls. “First at the hands of my own father, then in foster care and finally at the hands of my husband.” When her ex-husband turned his physical abuse to her son, Fabiola gained the courage to leave and take a chance at a better life for her children and herself.
For nine months, Fabiola and her kids were homeless, living in a shelter while her divorce was finalized. She took this time to find a job and a place to live, finding work as a waitress. While she enjoyed the job, she quickly discovered it couldn’t support the needs of her family.
“I started thinking of ways in which I could improve my opportunities,” says Fabiola. “I wanted something more, but I wasn’t sure what exactly. I only knew I wanted a job that had a purpose. My drive was to create a better future for my kids.”
Her local Worksource office changed her life, helping her build a resume and connecting her with a program that paid for her GED classes and a CNA certification at Chemeketa. She took the leap and returned to school 10 years after she had dropped out.
“When I started taking GED classes I had the choice of taking them in Spanish, but I wanted to challenge myself and took the classes and the exams in English,”says Fabiola. “I knew that learning how to write and read in English was essential in order to provide my kids with a better future.”
It took nine months for Fabiola to obtain her GED and CNA through Chemeketa. She credits the support of counselors, staff, tutors and teachers for helping her change her life.
“I had a wonderful experience and felt like I was a part of something big for the first time,” Fabiola recalls. “I had tasted knowledge and I was hungry for more.”
She went on to earn her associate degree and is now enrolled at Western Oregon University planning to earn her bachelor’s degree in psychology in the spring of 2016.
“I was once an adolescent who felt out of place and had no hope or dreams for the future,” Fabiola recalls. “Now I have become a better parent and I have a job that serves a purpose, a job that allows me to help people in a position I once was.”
Fabiola works as a teacher assistant for the Spanish GED for Chemeketa’s Dallas center and volunteers as an advocate for equality and human rights at Voz Hispana and she was selected as a guest speaker for Oregon’s 2015 GED Summit. Her five-year plan includes getting a master’s degree in Social work, buying a home and starting a savings account for her kids’ college education.
“I am thankful and proud of the opportunities I seized and I look forward many more to come,” she says. “I will never forget that all it took was to take a chance, a chance to go back to school to obtain a GED. Knowledge set me free—and there’s no stopping me now.”