For SRTC's Adult Education Student of the Year, Citizenship is Just the Beginning.

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For Brenda Morales Núñez, citizenship is one of the most significant words in the English language. “When an immigrant comes to this country hoping to stay, citizenship is a pinnacle achievement,” she said. She would know. As a young adult, Brenda left college and her home country of Mexico and came to the USA to join family members. She planned to take a six-month break from college, but life took her down a different path. She married, started a family, and became a full-time homemaker.

Along her path to citizenship, an immigration officer’s question about her future goals rekindled her educational aspirations. What were her ambitions? As a wife and mother, Brenda had different goals than the teenager who had left Mexico years before. “There is a difference between what a young person thinks they want to be and what they truly should be. Before I left Mexico, my dream was to be an architect. I was going to college to be an architect, but my mom had always told me that I should become a psychologist and help people.”

As an adult, Brenda had developed an interest in mental health and therapy. With some difficulty, she sought out a Spanish-language therapist so that she could express herself in the language that she felt most comfortable speaking. She came to realize that decades before, her mother had identified her calling. Brenda knew that she wanted to become a therapist who could provide comfort and guidance for clients in both English and Spanish. To do that, she would have to return to college.

Though she had completed high school in Mexico, those credits did not transfer, so Brenda had to earn her American High School Equivalency diploma. Her husband, a flight paramedic and EMT graduate of Southern Regional Technical College (SRTC) encouraged her to look into the Adult Education program at SRTC. Feeling apprehensive about taking classes in English, she enrolled in the free English Language Learners (ELL) classes at SRTC-Tifton. It only took a couple of sessions for Adult Education Curriculum Coordinator Shannan Walker to take note of Brenda’s potential. “Although she started with our ELL classes, it quickly became evident that Brenda was ready for more.”

Her primary GED® Preparation instructor Judy Abell found Brenda to be an exceptional student. “Although she was nervous about her communication skills in English, Brenda quickly adapted and became an important peer to all of our students. Many of the students looked up to Brenda especially during difficult math lessons.” Remote instruction due to the outbreak of COVID-19 began in March, but Brenda did not allow this to stop her progress. She continued to work online and joined the WebEx class meetings regularly. “Brenda was a great asset and example to the class. She was faithful and persevered through the challenging year that was 2020,” said Abell.

Brenda earned her High School Equivalency by passing all parts of the GED® exam in late 2020. She immediately enrolled at SRTC as a full-time college student pursuing her Associate degree with the goal of later obtaining a Bachelor of Psychology degree at a university. She said that her experience with the Adult Education program gave her the confidence and tools to succeed and move forward with her education. In early 2021, the Adult Education program at SRTC named Brenda their Adult Education Student of the Year, an accolade that she hopes can be a means of encouraging others. “I hope to motivate more people to start with their High School Equivalency. My English is not perfect, but I am doing this. I am fighting through this, removing this barrier, and I am moving forward. Whatever your barrier is, fight through it! If I can do it, you can do it!

In 2020, Brenda Morales Núñez officially became a United States Citizen. Brenda now intends to spend her career helping others as a therapist. “I want to help other people. In Mexico, I often heard that therapy is basic health care. All people need therapy. For home stress, for school stress, for job stress, for relationship stress. We have been carrying heavy burdens from the past. Citizenship means more than just being allowed to be here. Good citizenship means helping others. Thanks to my education, I will use my career to help others.


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