“I never thought that getting my GED [from Rappahannock Community College’s Adult Education program] would make such a big difference,” says Roberto Castro, “but it has transformed our family.” Castro and his wife Delia were employed by a local timber company, he as a supervisor and she as a dispatcher, until Delia was laid off when the company began to feel the effects of the recent economic downturn. Soon after, the company was forced to file for bankruptcy, and Roberto and all the rest of its employees found themselves out of work as well.
On applying for unemployment assistance, the Castros learned of many programs designed to help workers improve their employability… among them, RCC’s Adult Education program. But at first, says Roberto, “I didn’t think that I needed it. I thought it would be a waste of time.”
Both Castros had earned the equivalent of a high school diploma as teenagers in Mexico. But these credentials are not recognized in the United States — when they traveled through Tennessee, Alabama, and Georgia looking for work, they saw opportunities everywhere, but not for those without a diploma. Discouraged by this experience, they returned to Virginia and enrolled in Adult Education.
Delia was enthusiastic about the program from the outset, attending evening classes at RCC’s Kilmarnock Center and completing every homework assignment. “I had to start from the beginning in each subject,” she says, “but it was worth it. I was thrilled to get my GED, and I am thankful for everyone who helped me. I have so many opportunities now, and I look forward to every day.” Her success convinced Roberto that the program was worthwhile, and he earned his own GED in time to march with Delia in RCC’s May 2013 Commencement procession.
Delia is now an administrative assistant with Richmond County’s Department of Social Services, and Roberto has moved up to a managerial position in his company. “It’s like a dream come true,” he affirms. “I now realize that for many years I was blinded — I did not understand the significance of a GED.” Roberto’s next step is to qualify as a millwright; he is now attending classes leading to a certificate in that field from RCC’s Workforce Development Center.
He expresses his gratitude to the Adult Education program for “giving me the opportunity to excel and to learn more,” and adds, “I thought that at my age new opportunities no longer existed, and that the last train had already left.” Learning differently from RCC’s Adult Education has been a pleasant surprise for him.