Pine River Community Learning Center has been blessed with many student successes. Our learners are our pride and joy, because in their own ways they improve the world for all of us and foster hopes for the future. Here are just a few of the noteworthy:
Born and raised on the Southern Ute Tribe Reservation, Nick has spent much of his life steeped in the traditional themes and scenery of the Pine River valley. He has also known his share of conflict and personal struggle. Propelling himself in studies of theology, philosophy, and literature over the past year, however, with the help of PRCLC staff, he has today nourished a new calling for life. Not only preparing himself for college-level writing and mathematics—and the exams it requires—Nick has encouraged other local men to follow their hopes, find new curiosities, and push their intellectual limits. Creating an ongoing database of vocabulary words for open discussion, building a portfolio of narrative writing, and now working as an editor for a 2010 PRCLC publishing project, he demonstrates for many of us the unique connection between energy and inquiry, enthusiasm and knowledge. Education as a force for personal transformation is very much Nick’s platform. Diligence naturally follows. As he works now to expand his abilities toward a degree, and beyond that for his family, all of us look forward to the new bounty and future.
John was practically bred to the calluses and grinds of country life. Born just down the road in Arboles, he grew up along Colorado’s western slope and knew from an early age the scarcities of rural survival. Like many Hispanic families in Southwest Colorado, John’s was hardworking and poor, though poverty didn’t necessarily mean unhappiness. School opportunities were meager, however, and by the seventh grade he and his peers had mostly lost interest. What his family needed was income.
By early adulthood John knew he was losing job opportunities because he lacked a high school diploma. Working his muscles for 10-hour days, balancing a fragile budget, and supporting a family didn’t leave much time—and yet dog-tired or not, week in and week out, he religiously attended PRCLC’s evening classes and steadily advanced. “I am grateful to each and every one of the teachers,” John says. No matter how long it took, he explains, no matter what the problem, they were there to help prove that he could get a GED and succeed. Now in a new job with good benefits and better pay, John sees some real difference. “It wasn’t easy,” he says. And then, reminded that he’s now taking higher-level courses at PRCLC to build his career, and how his own children have advanced into college, he smiles: “it wouldn’t have happened without the people I found here.”
Growing up in Chinle, Arizona, Annie fell barely short of completing her high school diploma due to one thing: fear of math. Despite many attempts to conquer it, despite being a hard worker and a diligent student, the algebra seemed always to pose more pain than gain. Almost without hope, she quit school and took a job for $4.40 an hour, beginning the long 11-year struggle to earn a living. When she moved to Colorado, now with a husband and baby, making ends meet grew even harder: hearing on the radio about PRCLC classes, Annie took time between her shifts as a Temp employee to pursue her GED. Determined to succeed, cheered on by her teachers and peers, and spurred by the hope of better opportunity for herself and husband, Annie accomplished the “impossible.” “She’s the real thing,” says one of her teachers regarding her learning—“a real champ who beat the odds.”
“Some of my favorite memories,” Elizabeth says, “are of my high-school classes with all the other homeschoolers at PRCLC.” Now a sophomore in psychology at Lee University (TN), and honored as a B.L. Hicks Scholar, she recalls her experiences as both adventuresome and personally fulfilling. “Ms. Natalie, who taught or oversaw most of the classes, was a very important aspect of my experience. I learned a lot about life from her.” She made friendships for a lifetime, built strengths for career and family, and nurtured the courage to explore the world and help others. Elizabeth launched directly from the Homeschool Resources program into higher education, into mentoring and advising work. Today she’s planning both a wedding and a graduate career in Counseling, and carrying on the gifts of academic support to other young women with the lessons she began here. “Even though I learned the material,” she observes, “I gained so much more from the friendships I made… I am very thankful for the opportunities I had while I was there.”
Tam has learned that nothing in life is free: you work hard and fight for anything you want. Growing up poor in the ranch and farming town of Deming, NM, she battled to complete her high school diploma—and she became the first of her entire family to graduate with one. Moving to Colorado, marrying and raising two daughters, however, left her still a long way from making ends meet. Shyly, she enrolled in PRCLC’s Bridges to Success Program in 2009. Almost instantly she discovered possibilities in herself she never knew existed, and immersed herself into finance and computing courses with a passion. She landed her first professional job with Wells Fargo as a Bank Teller less than a month after finishing the program. Tam today credits her change in fortune to the motivating and personal energies of her teachers at Pine River, and to the informative curriculum it provides. “They move you up,” she says, “and keep you going.” Well Tam, it’s how we feel about you, too!
“When I sent my college application to the University of Arkansas, I thought, ‘They’ll send it back denied. I was home-schooled and I only have a GED. People like me don’t go to college.’” So Lisa began, as the guest lecturer of PRCLC’s January 2010 Graduation Ceremony. Having come to PRCLC ten years ago, disappointed and six months pregnant, sadly watching her friends go on to college, she felt convinced that her opportunities were over. What her teachers gave, however, was hope—and in a short time she had completed her GED. Although a single mom working 2 jobs, for small pay, she sent her college application anyway. Her GED had proven that just trying was worth an effort. In December 2005, she graduated with her Baccalaureate Degree in Child Development. It took a lot of soul searching, Lisa admits, but “getting your GED has the ability to take you places you never thought you would go… I guess ‘people like me’ can do extraordinary things.”