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Marisa's dream deferred; academy makes it possible

December 17, 2010

Marisa Torres, center, the first graduate of the Big Spring High School Career Academy, is shown with academy staff, from left, Lynelle Thomas, Jack Tonn, Gary Pierce and Academy Director Charlie Thomas. (HERALD photo/Steve Reagan)

A dream deferred is not always a dream denied.

Four years ago, Marisa Torres came oh, so close to a high school diploma, which would have been the first anyone from her family had ever earned. But some bad science scores on a state test denied her that diploma, so she walked away from school, and stayed away.

But Marisa took a second swipe at that elusive diploma this school year, and with the help of a new Big Spring High School program and some dedicated teachers — but mostly through her own determination — she collected that sheepskin.

Marisa is the first success story to come out of the BSHS Career Academy, a program designed to give students who drop out or fall behind their classmates a helping hand in achieving their educational goals. Her reward, aside from a plaque presented to her at Thursday's BSISD school board meeting, will be to don a cap and gown in May and achieve her long-held dream of accepting her diploma during high school graduation ceremonies.

Four years ago, however, graduation was the furthest thing from her mind.

“I was supposed to graduate in 2006, but I didn't pass the science portion of the TAKS (Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills) test, which meant I couldn't graduate,” she said. “So, I finished the rest of my classes, left school and didn't come back.”

During the past four years, Marisa devoted her time to raising two children and being “a housewife,” she said.

“Going back to school was never an option,” she said. “During the last four years, I never really thought about it.”

This summer, however, her sister heard about plans for the career academy at the high school and encouraged Marisa to give it a try. She applied, was interviewed and was accepted for the program's first classes this past August.

Under the tutelage of Academy Director Charlie Thomas and instructors Lynelle Thomas, Jack Tonn and Gary Pierce, Marisa immersed herself in science courses designed to earn her that final, elusive credit.

“It was nerve-wracking, she admitted. “I didn't know if I was actually going to accomplish anything … but in a way, it was kind of easy, getting back to studying.”

Charlie Thomas said Marisa applied herself to the courses with a vengeance.

“She had two things going for her — she's very intelligent and she has a very strong work ethic,” he said. “And, even more importantly, she had the support of her family. Not everyone has that kind of support at home. Receiving that diploma was very important to her. She could have gotten her GED (General Educational Development), but she wanted that diploma.”

After 2½ months of what seemed like non-stop studying, Marisa re-took the TAKS science test in late October.

And then she waited.

“I was kind of worried. I didn't think I had studied long enough,” she said.

Right before Thanksgiving, Tonn called her with the good news.

“When he told me I had passed, it got really emotional,” she said. “Me and my kids were just jumping up and down, screaming.”

While achieving a high school diploma is the realization of a long-sought after dream, it's not the end of school work for Marisa. She will continue at the academy this spring, taking concurrent college courses through Howard College. After that, she plans to enroll in HC's phlebotomy program.

But she admits she can't wait for high school graduation in May.

“It's going to be so exciting,” she said. “I've been looking forward to this forever.”

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