Valerie Bonner

Garden Grove Adult School

Hello my name is Valerie Bonner. There is a great Proverb that says:

"Wisdom calls aloud in the street, she raises her voice in the public squares, at the head of the noisy streets she cries out, in the gateways of the city she makes her speech."

Due to circumstances, lack of opportunity or bad choices or a combination of all, some of us are still pulling the cotton out of our ears.

Here is the story of a late bloomer. I am currently forty years alive; I was born with a genetic disease called Cystic Fibrosis. My parents were told when I was diagnosed at ten months old that by the age of twenty years I would have the lungs of an eighty-year-old woman who smoked all her life. This disease usually claims the life of the person by the age of twenty and also makes it very difficult to have children. So far I have beaten the odds. I have a beautiful daughter named Megan, and she is seventeen years old.

When I was fifteen years old I made a choice that cost me my high school diploma and some self-dignity, I started working odd jobs in hair salons as a hair stylist assistant, and receptionist, I worked in a donut shop and other small jobs and the question would always be there. Did you graduate high school? Do I lie? No, I didn't get the job. Every application was another reminder of my personal failure. I would dream at night how I would sneak back into school and do it right, be a good student this time.

But that was only a dream until my daughter Megan started kindergarten and had the same teacher I had in kindergarten 34 years earlier, Mrs. Hamada from Sunny Side Elementary School in Garden Grove, California. I would bring Megan to school and volunteer for Mrs. Hamada in her morning class. A part of me I couldn't ignore became evident. I enjoyed the process of learning. Mrs. Hamada encouraged me to go back to school to get my diploma. I started to consider the possibility. Also, I believe my daughter Megan, without a word encouraged me to tackle this thorn in my side. I would read to her at night and desire her not to make the same mistake I made. I wanted her to cherish education, I guess, like every parent.

I started thinking about school even more than before. But my health was getting worse and I was having more complications from my disease. I had to have intravenous antibiotics every three months and breathing treatments every morning and night just to be able to do routine daily stuff. Then a medical breakthrough came about. A new medication called Alpha Dornase gave me the ability to breathe again and also gave me some hope for a future.

Although I still didn't have enough courage to battle my own personal fear of going back to school, until I found Chapman Hettinga Education Center in the city of Garden Grove.

I went to speak to the on campus counselor Mrs. Sheila Wells, and for the first time I had hope I could attain my High School diploma. I started going to school full time Monday through Friday and loving every minute of it. From time to time during the semesters my disease would flare up and I had to be put on intravenous antibiotics.

One year later I received my much-coveted high school diploma in cap and gown with my fellow classmates. I couldn't hold back the emotions when they played "Pomp and Circumstance" as we walked up to receive our diplomas. With my family and friends looking on I received honors and a scholarship.

The staff was very supportive and I appreciate the support and guidance I received during this time. I loved the classroom environment and decided to train to become a Teacher's Assistant through the Adult Education Program taught at Lincoln Education Center. In the classroom I enjoyed encouraging young adults and older students who were in my same shoes to hang in there and keep their eye on the prize, the prize being personal victory over a debilitating mindset.

I worked for three and a half hours a day, for about five years and before going home each day I would sit in my car and cough my head off until I could breathe again. I realized I needed to take a medical leave in the summer of 1999. And was put on oxygen twenty-four hours a day. My health situation was starting to look bad. In October of 2000, my family encouraged me to place my name on a lung transplant waiting list through the University of Southern California, in Los Angeles, to have a surgery to receive new lungs to be able to breathe freely again. At this time I was thirty-seven years young.

On the tenth of January 2001, I received the call for my surgery at 1:00 a.m. in the morning. Not really knowing what to expect, if I was going to live or die, I decided that it was not in my hands. I remember my whole family driving down the 710 freeway towards U.S.C. in caravan style, my sister in the lead and willing to break the law if she had to in order to get me there on time for the 3:00 a.m. surgery.

I received a "text book" surgery according to the doctors. I received a very successful transplant from a young man in his late teens and his name was Brian. I am very thankful for his life-giving gift, and his mother's sacrifice.

Eight months after the surgery I went back to work in an elementary school, though my true heart was with the adult education system. I was given an opportunity to work in the office at Lincoln Education Center enrolling students to learn English. Our district then went through a district wide reclassification for classroom aides that would like to receive a raise and keep their jobs. I was thankful and fearful at the same time. I needed to pass a typing test to attain this promotion I attended an R.O.P. class (Regional Occupational Program) to learn how to type and four months later received my certificate.

I am currently working in the registration office through the Adult Education Program with students that would like to continue their vocational or basic education goals. At present I encourage from behind the registration desk. I am thankful for the opportunities I have had in my life today. And I have plans for my future.

In the summer of 2004 I hope to attend North County R.O.P. to gain my Esthetician's License for skin care as my second career. It will be a challenge but I've learned that that is what life is all about, challenges and accomplishments to continue life long learning. I believe that is one way we can stay young and alive.

"I shall pass through this world but once. Any good therefore that I can do or any kindness that I can show to any human being, let me do it now. Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again..." Gandhi

On Thursday, May 25, 2006, friends and family celebrated the life and the joy that was Valerie Bonner. Valerie passed from this life having lost her life long battle with Cystic Fibrosis.

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