Maria Palacio didn’t know any English but refused to let that stand in the way of reaching her goals and setting an example for her daughters.

About 10 years ago, Palacio started down the path toward attending college with an English as a second language class through the Literacy Council of Tyler. On Thursday, she received her GED and will begin working toward a degree this fall at Tyler Junior College.

“I’m so excited and nervous,” she said. “Even though it’s just my GED, it’s a big thing to me.”

While the journey has at times been difficult, Palacio said she never considered giving up. With the help of her teachers, she learned English, became a dental assistant and is preparing to begin training to become a dental hygienist.

“I love school,” she said. “I wanted to make (my daughters) proud and show them they can go as far as they want.”

Her girls cheered her on during the GED graduation ceremony at Tyler Junior College. Next week she’ll cheer them on as they graduate from Robert E. Lee High School. With Palacio setting a great example for them, they also will be starting college this fall.

She said she couldn’t have made it this far without the help of the caring instructors at the Literacy Council of Tyler.

“They’re really good; the teachers are there to help and give you extra time outside of the classrooms,” Palacio said.

GED instructor Rich Roper said it’s been a wonderful experience watching her grow.

“At first she was so shy and scared,” he said.

Roper began working with the organization as a volunteer before moving into the classroom as a teacher and then overseeing the program.

“I joke that I got paid today when someone finishes,” he said. “It’s kind of an intangible reward to see them achieve their goals.”

This year more than 200 students have earned their GEDs through the council’s free programs, and 60 walked across the stage on Thursday to receive their diplomas.

For more information about classes, visit LCOTyler.org.

Cory is a multimedia journalist and member of the Education Writers Association, Criminal Justice Journalists and Investigative Reporters and Editors. He has appeared on Crime Watch Daily and Grave Mysteries on Investigation Discovery.

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