TWIN FALLS — Josefina Naveros embodies the idea that it’s never too late to go back to school.
The 60-year-old Twin Falls mother of three and grandmother of nine graduated May 11 from the College of Southern Idaho with her General Educational Development (GED) certificate, a measure of high school equivalency.
Naveros is among 86 people who signed up to participate in CSI’s GED graduation ceremony, although many more people earned a GED certificate throughout the school year.
Her advice to others: “You can’t let nothing stop you from getting your GED” — not blindness, deafness, disability or any other life circumstance, she told the Times-News on Wednesday.
Now, Naveros is figuring out what to do next. Growing up, she always wanted to be a teacher, but said she thinks it would be a very difficult job. She’s interested in working in an office setting and enjoys paperwork.
Community members often have an uphill battle to earn a high school equivalency certificate. Under nationwide changes that took effect in 2014, students must pass more rigorous GED tests in four subject areas than in years past.
Tests are taken on computers, rather than with pencil and paper. Plus, they’re a reflection of Common Core Standards, and require more writing and critical thinking.
Naveros’ journey toward finishing her education began about four decades ago.
She was in her senior year at Valley High School in Hazelton when her mother pulled her out of school to help raise two younger siblings. Naveros’ single mother was raising five children.
“I kind of missed going back to school” and seeing her friends, Naveros said. If she had graduated with her class, she would have been in the class of 1977.
She started working and later moved to Twin Falls, but the thought of finishing her high school education never faded. Over the years, she worked at a potato plant and as a courier.
“The thought of going back to school was always in the back of my head,” Naveros said, adding she wanted something better for her children.
Over the years, she started partially losing her hearing and ran into difficulties at work because she had trouble hearing instructions from her managers and coworkers.
“They were saying I didn’t hear them right,” she said.
A sister told her about GED preparation classes on Tuesday and Thursday nights at CSI. Naveros started attending around 1979 or ‘80, but it wasn’t a good experience.
She later tried again with night classes, but ran into the same experience. A teacher tried to give her a spelling test, but she couldn’t hear the words being read aloud.
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She kept telling teachers she was deaf, but their focus was on the younger students and “it seemed they didn’t want to pay attention to me,” she said. It was discouraging.
“Somehow, it wasn’t for me at that time,” she said.
Years later, she kept running into a friend who working toward a GED certificate through CSI. Her daughter, Victoria Martinez, also encouraged her mother to go back to school.
“My daughter said, ‘If I can graduate, you can graduate,’” Naveros said.
But Naveros told them she was too old and wouldn’t be able to remember what she learned.
She took the plunge after losing her courier job following an on-the-clock car crash. This time, her experience taking basic skills classes was totally different — and not just because computers were now in every classroom.
“These people were nicer,” she said, and helped her. She sat in the front of classrooms so she could read her teachers’ lips. And her teachers made her feel good about her abilities.
First semester was “great fun,” Naveros said. “I loved it.”
But there were challenges left to overcome. “Still, it was my deafness that was interfering.”
She got a cochlear implant on her left side and hopes to do the same for her right side in the future. The implant helped her understand her teachers.
Her friends in the program graduated and she didn’t have anyone to talk to in class. But her teachers continued to push her to finish and would even call to ask if she was coming to class.
CSI basic skills instructor Amelia Mott had Naveros in at least two of her classes.
“I was just struck with the level of dedication and determination she displayed,” Mott said Wednesday, saying she has a “pretty indomitable spirit.”
For some people who have a hearing impairment, it could lead to them giving up on earning a GED certificate or deciding the process was too arduous, Mott said.
But Naveros was extremely regular in her attendance and with completing homework assignments. And she wasn’t hesitant to ask questions in class, if needed.
It took about a year or two of taking basic skills classes and test taking to earn a GED certificate and attend her first-ever graduation day.