After attending GED classes in the fall, my dad tested over the five subjects earlier this month.
The results aren’t in yet, but even without them, my heart swells with pride. The fact that at 47 my dad is pursuing a basic education, enroute to what we hope becomes a college degree, is inspiring.
And it’s totally my dad.
Like most immigrants, my dad arrived in this country 28 years ago at age 18 with little more than the clothes on his back and the hope for a better life. He married my mom a few years later, and they had me and and my brother two and four years thereafter.
From then on, seizing opportunities for the “better life” was dictated by what they would provide for the three of us, not so much his personal goals and dreams. He worked in construction and other odd jobs before beginning work as a welder for Imperial Fabricating, where he’s been for 26 years as of July. While holding a strenuous job, he never neglected to give us his love and constant support.
He attended our school programs and awards ceremonies -even during the work day – and sat in the stands to watch each of my pitiful attempts at sports.
I vividly remember him standing in the bleachers of the old rock gym in Slidell flashing me a huge thumbs-up and a smile after I scored my first – and I’m pretty sure only – Little Dribblers basket. Despite the previous three or four scoreless seasons, he made me feel like the team’s MVP.
It’s the same way I see his education pursuit. I pride myself in his GED testing – just testing – as if he’s the top graduate of an Ivy League school. It speaks volumes of his selflessness, his determination and his potential. Although he excels at his rough, arduous job, he’s made for a more intellectually involved position. Pursuing that wasn’t feasible when he first arrived, considering he was just past high school age and his English was limited. Seeking a GED moved even lower on the list after he married my mom and had kids.
But now that he’s bulldozed the way through college for my brother and I, who graduated in 2011 and 2010, respectively, it’s his turn.
It’s been incredibly humbling to be able to return the encouragement and support my brother and I so abundantly received through our schooling and continue to receive through our careers and personal choices. In the coming year, I look forward to continuing that support – whether it’s for his second or third attempt for a GED or his enrolling in continuing education courses.
I’ll take pride in my dad’s pursuing a delayed goal that was put on hold so he could facilitate the way for my brother and I to reach ours.
Erika Pedroza is a Messenger reporter.