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Woman who grew up in Mexico without schooling earns diploma

By Tom Rivers, Editor Posted 29 October 2015 at 12:00 am

Photos by Tom Rivers – Gloria Jasso last week received her high school diploma from Brockport after years of study, beginning with English classes at her Kendall home in 1998.

WATERPORT – Gloria Jasso was 22 when she went to her first class, English as a Second Language.

It was 1998, and she and some of her farmworker friends gathered in Gloria’s home in Kendall to be taught by Linda Redfield.

Jasso grew up in rural, impoverished Mexico and never attended school. That wasn’t unusual for girls in Michoacan, the poorest state in Mexico. Jasso grew up in a mountainous region. She learned some reading and writing from her aunt.

“There were no schools or teachers,” Jasso said.

She started working at Herberle Farms in Hamlin in 1994. She would work there for 19 years, picking apples, trimming trees, planting strawberries, and working in the warehouse.

Gloria Jasso is pictured with one of her tutors, Deanne Borrie (left) and teacher Linda Redfield, right.

After work, she would take classes. In the winter, when she wasn’t working for the farm, she could spend even more time learning, attending classes in Medina and later in Brockport. She also learned splelling, English, math and other skills by helping her four children with their homework.

Once she learned words in English, she wanted to learn more. It was the same with math. As she mastered some skills, she kept pushing herself.

“As soon as I was learning a word in English it made me more excited to learn more,” Jasso said.

For 17 years she learned, improving her English, math, computer skills and education.

She considered getting a General Equivalency Diploma, but opted for a more challenging high school diploma. Last week, she was presented with that diploma through the National External Diploma Program.

“She had the intention to always improve herself,” said Linda Redfield, one of her teachers.

Redfield is the education director at the World Life Institute on Stillwater Road in Waterport. The school hosted a celebration for Jasso on Wednesday.

Jasso said her teachers and several volunteer tutors were instrumental in her success, in completing the many classes and building her confidence.

She completed many of her classes on-line and met with teachers twice a week at the public library in Brockport. She was looking for a tutor to help check her work. Several people stepped forward, including Deanne Borrie of Kent.

Borrie and the tutors declined any payment, even gas money, despite Jasso’s offers. Borrie said she is grateful to have Jasso as a friend and is inspired by her work ethic and her generous nature.

Jasso and her husband Efrain Arellano recently moved into their own house in Brockport. They have four children, including daughter Tania, who was the valedictorian at Kendall in 2015.

Photo by Cheryl Wertman – Tania Arellano was a star for Kendall in athletics and academics. She was the valedictorian of the Class of 2015.

Tania now plays soccer and basketball at Roberts Wesleyan College in Rochester. Tania is a business and accounting major, and scholarships are covering her college costs.

“She is very smart,” Jasso said about her daughter. “I am so proud of her.”

Tania was deeply committed to her schoolwork at Kendall, and took a rare absence from school in 2011 to accompany her mother to Albany, when Jasso was honored as a “student of the year” by the New York State Association of Adult Continuing and Community Education.

Jasso and her husband have three other children: Johnny, a 10th grader; Princesa, a sixth grader; and Diego, a fourth-grader. They attend school in Brockport.

Jasso said she is looking to update her resume and may pursue job training.

“I have to see what’s available,” she said.

Redfield said Jasso’s achievement is remarkable.

“She never had an education in her home country,” Redfield said.

Jasso thanked her teachers and tutors for their help on the educational journey. In addition to Borrie, Frank and Jeanne Lauta, Bill and JoAnne Camaan, and Frank and Tracy Panczyszyn all volunteered as tutors with Jasso.