More Than 70 Years Later, A Path To A High School Diploma Re-Opens For Arizona Woman

By Mariana Dale
Published: Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 8:39am
Updated: Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 10:41am

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Frances Smith
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
“I just never did finish high school and I wanted to learn a little more,” Smith said.

On a recent Thursday morning, about a dozen adults are seated at computers at Queen Creek Middle School.

Teacher Mauricio Ramirez leans over one of the students, Frances Smith, and guides her hand on the mouse.

“I’m trying to learn how to type, mostly,” Smith said. When she was in school more than 70 years ago, typing wasn’t taught, but it’s a skill she’ll need to master to earn her GED diploma.

Smith, 87, is one of about 350 people who participate in adult education every year in the Queen Creek Unified School District. The students come from more than 19 different countries and even more walks of life.

“[For] some of the students, English is not their second language, English is probably their fourth or fifth language,” said Miguel Garcia, director of instruction for the adult education program.

With federal funds, the district offers classes in English language, reading, writing and high school equivalency preparation classes.

RELATED: Queen Creek Education Program Has Taught Migrant Workers English For 20 Years

Mauricio Ramirez teaches some of the adult education classes and graphic design at Queen Creek High School.

The students want to learn here,” Ramirez said. “Over there, it seems like they take it for granted.”

An Education Realized

Mauricio Ramirez shows Frances Smith how to use the computer in a Queen Creek adult education class
Mariana Dale/KJZZ
Mauricio Ramirez helps Frances Smith start creating a poster using Microsoft Word. Ramirez also teaches graphic design at Queen Creek High School.

Frances Smith was born in Trumann, Arkansas in 1931.

“I didn’t go no farther than 8th grade, and I went three weeks and I had to drop out because (I had) to help make a living,” Smith said.  

Her family followed farm work. First it was strawberries in Bald Knob, Arkansas, then to Michigan to pick cherries and raspberries.

She eventually married and had three children of her own. She always thought about going back to school, but never had the time.

“Well I just never did finish high school and I wanted to learn a little more,” Smith said.

She moved to Arizona with her daughter last year.

“I told my daughter, I said ‘I don’t know if I’m too old to go to school or not.’ She said ‘You ain’t got nothing else to do!" Smith said, laughing.

Smith isn’t sure what she’ll do once she finishes.

“The age I am, I don’t think anyone would hire me,” Smith said.  

What she does know is how she’ll feel with a high school equivalency diploma in her hand.