Dora Dueñas

San Juan Sunrise Tech Center & Creekside Adult Center

Nominated in 2020


“My name is Dora Dueñas, and I’m an English learner. Life is full of surprises and sometimes leads you to unexpected journeys. Here I am after twenty years - and two beautiful teenagers - finally getting my GED! Acquiring my GED will be one of the few steps I have to follow to complete my education in this country. I’m very excited about going back to reach my postponed goals and dreams.”

In August of 2019, we met a warm, friendly, motivated student, Dora Dueñas, who had just signed up to take GED classes. She smiled broadly and jumped heartily into the work of studying for the math section for the test. Dora followed our instructions to maintain an educational journal through her class journey. She consistently documented her progress as well as delays or difficulties. She has been an example to other students of persistence and diligence. When asked, she was willing to give a presentation to classmates and to encourage them to maintain an educational journal for personal development.

Dora told us she already had a high school diploma from her country, but because she was studying a career at the university and had not finished, she couldn’t get her high school diploma back. Because there was a difficult administrative process to go through to get it, she decided to embark on the GED in the US.

Another temporary set-back came as she said that four years ago she had to make a difficult decision. She was in a job that gave great benefits and a high salary, but her family was struggling with her long working hours. Also, her daughter wasn’t doing well at school.

“For me, my family is first. Leaving my job was one of the best choices I have made in my life (don’t take it wrong, I loved my job, but I love my family more) because I started being a part of my kid’s school life.” She also changed to working in a job with a less-demanding work week. And, when asked there to take on management duties, she declined to maintain her availability for her family and her studies.

Dora wanted to help at her children’s school, so she became a volunteer at San Juan Unified School District on the LCAP-PAC (Local Control Accountability Plan - Parent Advisory Committee) Board for Mira Loma High School. She also volunteered on the DELAC (District English Learners Advisory Committee). She was secretary of the program of International Studies, as well as part of the Site Council all at her children’s school.

“To be honest, it wasn’t easy for me to participate in these boards and programs, because I’m an English learner. And secondly, I didn’t have any idea how the United States school system compared to the one in Mexico. It was a challenge for me, but I realized that I wasn’t the only person with these struggles. I started to learn and share what I was learning with other parents. Between learning and sharing information, I found out about the GED and I decided that it was my time to work up to get the GED and continue with my education. After I get my GED, I want to go to college to get my associate's degree - no matter how long it takes me, I’ll do it.”

Dora emphasized that she continues to share what she is learning with others she meets at board and community meetings (she is able to serve as a member since she is a student herself). Dora encourages others to return to school, especially Sunrise Tech Center where she attends since she knows the importance of learning English to participate fully in one’s community. “I want everyone to know this,” she said. So she continues to encourage others.

“I appreciate the opportunity to further my education, but it takes work. You have to set up a goal… but sooner or later you will get there.”

“Everything was great until COVID-19 started all over the world, and I’m stuck in the middle of earning my GED [Teacher’s Note: Dora would have finished this school year].” Dora continued, “But, life has many ups and downs.” During this pandemic, Dora had the opportunity to join an organization called Sacramento ACT, which formed a subgroup to receive monetary donations and help 140 families with rent, bills, and food gift cards. She is also serving with another group of moms within the San Juan Unified School District - they have collected enough food to help around ten families with food baskets. Now they are talking with food bank coordinators to move with a large project to help about 200 families every month until this pandemic crisis has passed.

“I know this won’t last forever, and when everything passes, I am going to be able to finish what I started last August 2019. I will finish my GED and continue my dreams while giving those in need help and sharing my knowledge with those who don’t have help or knowledge.” She is especially aware of the powerful example she is giving to her children. Dora concluded, “I want everyone to get higher education. This is my life - I open my way to go ahead.” Dora is truly a remarkable and inspirational person. Her hallmarks are integrity and kindness. The GED certification will merely be yet another accomplishment she will share with the world.

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