An Austin school delivers second chances

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by JESSICA VESS / KVUE News & Chief Photojournalist SCOTT GUEST

Bio | Email | Follow: @JessicaV_KVUE

kvue.com

Posted on February 9, 2014 at 11:45 PM

Updated Monday, Feb 10 at 12:01 AM

AUSTIN -- The jobs classifieds haunted LaToya Anderson for years. The words "hiring now" didn't pertain to her. LaToya never stood a chance. "Everything you had to have your GED," recalled Anderson. She had dropped out of high school at 17, the biggest regret of her life. She spent most days raising her three daughters, skipping from one small job to another. "The temp jobs, they didn’t last long and it was never going to get me anywhere, the little temp jobs, especially having three children," said Anderson. She wanted more, but with no diploma and no real job experience she struggled. LaToya wanted to change her future. "My little girls. I was like I gotta do it for them. They’re gonna look to me and I’m all they have right now, and I don’t want them to think that that’s okay. You have to finish school. Your education is important," she said. LaToya set out to get the education she missed in her teens. She turned to the Ascend Center for Learning. "I doubted myself so much," she admitted. For LaToya it was a struggle from the first time she walked down the halls at Ascend. She had to take the bus. She had to raise three daughters at the same time and work. Every day she went to school from 8:30 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. Then she'd get her daughters, take them home, get them to bed and head to work from 7:00 p.m. to 3:30 a.m. "I used to wake up every morning going ‘I can’t do this’ I used to be so tired. So tired," said LaToya. LaToya first went to adult basic education classes. She brushed up on math, reading, and writing. Then she went through job readiness training. LaToya learned how to navigate programs including Microsoft Office. She learned how to develop her resume and what to expect in a job interview. With each step, she celebrated her victories. Stars bearing her name went up on the walls at Ascend. Each one was motivation for the next day. Finally, the moment of truth, LaToya took the GED exam. "The hardest one for me was my math test though. I was so scared. I’ve never been good at Math, ever. I was like I’m afraid," said LaToya. Support at Ascend pushed LaToya through. Then another star went up on the wall and another certificate with her name came out. "I could keep these forever. Frame them. Show my little girls," she said, "I did it. I still can’t believe. How did I do it? I’m just sitting back thinking I had a lot of support, help and encouragement along the way and God. It’s a blessing." LaToya then did something she never thought she would do. She put on her cap and gown. Suddenly the jobs classifieds give her something she didn't have before, hope.

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