Valerie Garcia: TARA program gives students a second chance to graduate

Valerie Garcia: TARA program gives students a second chance to graduate
Posted on 03/02/2021
Valerie Garcia: TARA program gives students a second chance to graduateBy Kadey Heidrich
Pasadena ISD Communications

Valerie Garcia is a mom, wife and Assistant Cafeteria Manager at Kendrick Middle School in Pasadena ISD. In December of 2020, Garcia was able to add one more title to that list: high school graduate. 

Thanks to the Texas Alternative Recertification Application (TARA) Program at Community School, Garcia was able to complete her high school education and earn a diploma. 

The TARA program gives students who completed their curriculum requirements for graduation, but failed some of their state assessments, an opportunity to earn their high school diploma. To be admitted into the TARA program, students must have started the ninth grade before the 2011-2012 school year. 

Garcia speaks about the TARA program and why she decided to return to school. 

Q: How did you find out about the TARA program?
A: I learned about GED classes through my work. To get started, I contacted Community School to get my transcripts and enroll in the GED courses. 

Jennifer Valencia, the secretary at Community School, did some digging and found out that I only needed to complete two assessments to earn my diploma. It was then that I learned about the TARA program. 

Q: What motivated you to earn your high school diploma?
A: After not graduating from high school, I had always told myself that I would go back eventually. I saw all of these jobs that required a high school diploma and I didn’t have one, it was embarrassing. I told myself to keep my head up, but I just kept putting off going back to school. 

I was out of school for 11 long, rocky years. Eventually, I thought to myself, “ I have to get this done.” 

My daughter and my husband also helped motivate me to complete school. She would say to me, “Mom, you’re still young, go for it!” Later on, after I started school, she always asked if I did my homework that day. 

Q: What is the TARA program like?
A: The TARA program was different from regular school. I was able to complete my work at my own pace and there was no rush. 

Q: After the assessments were complete, how did you feel?
A: I was very nervous to get my results! I was convinced that I had failed. I told Community School, “If I have failed, just tell me.” 

When I received my passing scores and earned my diploma, I felt like I had achieved one of my biggest goals. 

Q: What would you say to someone considering going back to school? 
A: I would tell them that just because you didn’t complete school  the first time, don’t stop. You know, you may have fallen down, but you have to get back up. Don’t let anyone tell you that you can’t get your diploma, because you can.