I-BEST boosts career opportunities and confidence

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When Jeremiah Delgado earned his High School Equivalency Certificate (HSE/GED) from SFCC in May, he achieved a goal that had once seemed impossible.

Jeremiah Delgado

“I am beyond happy,” Delgado said. “Words really can’t explain because I didn’t see myself reaching this point. I dropped out when I was 16. I tried getting my GED before, but it wasn’t on my mind. It took me a long time to earn this.”

Now that he has his HSE certificate, Delgado’s on track to launch an exciting career, thanks to the college’s Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training (I-BEST) Program, which allowed him to pursue his HSE while simultaneously working on getting his Automotive Maintenance and Light Repair Certificate in SFCC’s Automotive Technologies program. At age 31, married and the father of a newborn daughter, Delgado hopes to start his own business.

“Deciding to get my certificate in Automotive Maintenance and Light Repair is actually one of the of the best choices I ever made,” he said. “It’s doing something I enjoy and have become passionate about. My wife and I have been talking about what would I like I do when I get my certificate. I’ll have shop experience. I’d like to get my associate degree in business and with the knowledge in automotive repair, it would be nice to open up my own mechanic shop.”

Delgado was one of 69 students recognized in May for earning the HSE certificate through the college’s Academic Career Education Program, which offers classes in English and Spanish that prepare students for the HSE exams.

Some of those HSE students also participate in I-BEST. Through I-BEST, students follow career pathways while taking classes to improve their reading, writing and math skills. This opportunity to simultaneously build academic and career skills can fast-track HSE students to a career by reducing the number of semesters required to graduate. In addition to Automotive Maintenance and Light Repair, the I-BEST Program offers students a certificate in Certified Nursing Assistant, Community Health Worker, and Early Childhood Development. (The I-BEST program also is available to non-HSE students.)

“Most students have to have high school equivalency to get into college and to receive financial aid,” says Academic Career Education Manager Kristen Krell. “More than 200,000 students in New Mexico are living in poverty and don’t have high school credentials. The I-BEST Program allows students to pair up their reading, writing and math instruction in a way that focuses on their program of study and get that high school credential in an accelerated manner. We partner with New Mexico Workforce Connection and Help New Mexico, and we provide support with finding employment.” 

Through I-BEST and other Academic Career Education programs, Krell and her colleagues are dedicated to helping students lay the groundwork for a successful career. “The work that we do is building foundational skills and credentials,” she said. “It’s foundational for the students’ future. We take the work seriously because we realize that in order for students to move forward in their education or their career, there has to be a passion for helping them and providing ongoing one-on-one guidance.”

Such dedication can have big rewards. “When Jeremiah succeeded, our entire department celebrated,” Krell said. “His commitment to trying to be the best person he could be and create the best life for his wife and his new baby, showed that anything’s possible when you have the love, the inspiration and support to achieve your dream. That is such a joy, when you see students start to believe in themselves.”