TCU staff get a second shot at an education


By Grace Amiss

One student goes to school in hopes of getting a raise at her job. The other, to be a role model for her kids. The third just wants to own a house in the countryside.

Although each student has their own individual goals, they have one thing in common — they’re not a typical TCU student.

They’re staff members.

For 90 minutes twice a week, TCU staff members clock out from their job and clock into class to work towards their GED, a test that equates to a U.S. high school diploma when passed.

The program, created by TCU Human Resources, is part of the university’s “Lead On” initiative with goals to strengthen the workforce and academic profile of TCU’s community.

One can usually find Pamela Sanchez cleaning the stadium to make sure it’s pristine for gamedays. However, starting at 3:30 p.m. she heads toward Room 243 in the Rickel to switch from sanitizing to studying.

Although her workday isn’t technically over, her supervisors allow her to attend class during her shift.

“I’ve always wanted to go to school,” Sanchez said. “I know I’ve made mistakes and dropped out for me to get here, but you have to put your foot forward and do your best.”

When the going gets tough, Sanchez looks to her 7-year-old nephew for motivation.

“I want to succeed to show him that anything is possible to do,” Sanchez said. “I’ve gone through a lot my whole entire life and he’s the main reason why I’m taking this. So I can succeed, go on with my future and become better.”

Despite all of the hardships she faces, Sanchez knows her work will pay off.

“I want one day, hopefully, to own my own home out in the country,” Sanchez said. “I want to show people that I succeeded. Not only them but myself, too. That I can do it.”

Cynthia Solis is another one of the seven students in the class. She’s been at TCU for 10 years as a part of Sodexo. Although she’s been on campus for a decade, these classes help her feel truly integrated into the TCU community.

“It’s a big thing for me — you’re not just a vendor, you’re a part of TCU,” Solis said. “Everyone is so friendly, everyone treats you with equality. For me, it’s what TCU is about.”

Solis, like Sanchez, has children who look up to her. By returning to school, she hopes to show her two teenagers that anything is possible.

“It’s being an example that it’s never too late to go back,” Solis said. “You can always go back but it gets harder and harder, so why not do it the first time?”

The test is devised of six subjects – reading, writing, math, science and social studies. Once the student passes one of the subject tests, they begin studying for the next. Currently, the class is focused on passing the math portion, the hardest of the six.

Fort Worth ISD Adult Education instructor Johnnie Hunt ensures the students feel prepared — emotionally and academically — to take the test.

“I help keep them confident and encourage them,” Hunt said. “They can go as high as they want and we will work with them.”

For Sonia Gallegos, another one of the students, the sky is the limit. She’s been at TCU for 20 years, but once she gets her GED, she has a promotion waiting for her.

“I didn’t this I was going to make it this long,” Gallegos said. “I can show my daughter that she can do it because sometimes she wants to quit and she sees me and she tells me ‘Mom don’t quit’ and I tell her ‘OK, you don’t quit either.'”

While most parents help their children with their homework, Gallegos and her daughter help each other with their studies.

“I told her ‘I want my GED’ and now I’m here,” Gallegos said. “Now, I can help my daughter with her homework and it makes me feel good about myself.”

Hunt said the class is planning to take the math test by December, and hopes for a perfect passing score.