By LETICIA BODINE
Amarillo College’s High School Equivalency Program is helping individuals who are determined to better their future by attaining their General Educational Development diploma.
“My little brother got his diploma fast and he motivated me to do the same because he made it seem so easy,” said Israel Rodriguez, future HEP student aspiring to pursue a nursing degree.
“HEP will benefit me and my family.”
Michael Rodriguez, a nursing major, got out of high school before his time to graduate. It only took about a month to complete his GED exams and the HEP program covered the cost because he met all of the specific requirements.
Michael Rodriquez not only inspired his older brother Israel to seek help from HEP to get his GED, but he also inspired his father.
“My youngest son, Michael, inspired me to better my future by getting my diploma with the help of HEP so that I can succeed,” said Samuel Rodriguez, a nursing major.
HEP is an education program that is created to meet the specific needs of migrant and seasonal farm workers in pursuit of a GED diploma. HEP is intended to provide assistance for these students in the preparation and successful completion of GED exams.
“The only people who are missing out are those who do not qualify for HEP,” said Raul Dominguez, a recruitment and placement specialist for HEP.
Qualifications include migrant or seasonally employed agricultural workers or someone in their immediate family who has worked a minimum of 75 days in agriculture-related employment within the last two years. Agriculture jobs include beef packing plants, ranching, feedlots, cotton gins, farming, dairies and grain elevators.
Qualifying participants in the program must be at least 17 years of age, cannot currently be enrolled in school and cannot have a secondary school diploma or its equivalent.
They also must take and pass an admission pre-test.
If an applicant does not meet these requirements, Dominguez will direct the applicant to one of the other four established sites in Amarillo that assist people seeking their diploma.
HEP is now in its 12th year at AC, but it did not become an establishment until six years ago.
“HEP has helped 645 people to attain their GED diploma in the last six years and the numbers continue to rise,” Dominguez said.
“Our biggest recruiting effort is current and prior students’ word-of-mouth about HEP.”
HEP provides assistance for placement in universities, colleges, vocational institutions, military services and other post-secondary activities or career positions, according to the AC HEP brochure.
HEP is funded by the U.S. Department of Education and all services are free for eligible students.
“Depending on the number of hours the student comes to class each week, they can receive a stipend to come to class,” Dominguez said.
“A stipend is usually around $50 a week, which helps out with gas, lunch and childcare, if needed.”
Dominguez said most students who earn their GED through the HEP program go on to enroll at AC to further their education.
“This will ultimately benefit the college and the families of these students,” he said.
Vince Salinas, program director of HEP, oversees and is actively involved with the accomplishments of project performance objectives.
HEP students are required to either register to attend college, obtain suitable employment or enlist in the military after receiving their GED diploma, Salinas said.
For more information, visit www.actx.edu/hep.