St. Augustine College is Changing Lives

Lawndale News Chicago's Bilingual Newspaper - Education

My name is Gerardo A. Valdivia and I live in the West Lawndale neighborhood. I was born in Ocotlan, Jalisco, Mexico. At the age of four I came to Chicago with my family. I was raised in the Pilsen neighborhood learning about how beautiful Chicago is and remembering where I come from. The last two months of my senior year in high school I learned that I was going to be a father. I needed a few credits to finish but instead of summer school I decided to go straight to work and start being a responsible future husband and father.

Working in factories and temp agencies taught me how important it is to have an education. This was not about how much money I could make but more of what a better future I could provide for my son. On July 10th, 2015 my family was in a house fire while we were all sleeping, we were then living in the West Lawndale neighborhood. My wife Korissa passed away while my children, ages seven and two, and I suffered burns and were intubated in the hospital. Thanks to family and friends my children and I were able to get back on our feet.

I remarried to someone who has helped me remember the important things in life. My wife Teresa had gone through the same thing after Adan, her son, at the age of three had lost his father Emmanuel. What an amazing big blended family with a sad sour background story we’ve become. Teresa and I now raise three handsome boys and two beautiful princesses. But I still wanted to provide a better future for all my kids. With the support of my wife I was able to attend St. Augustine College’s GED program, which prepared me to obtain my high school equivalence certificate (GED) in ten weeks. Part of completing this program also included a free credit course at SAC. So after this accomplishment in my life, I decided to take advantage of this opportunity, so I took the incentive class at St. Augustine College. I realized that although I am thirty years old it is never too late to fight in life for a better future.

My wife is currently working to receive her bachelor’s in social work at St. Augustine College. Three of my children are at St. Ann Catholic School in Chicago. I am currently on hold with my dream to continue college and graduate. Every day I remember what I’ve been through, from migrating to a new country, learning a new language, a new culture, the heartbreaking loss of my former wife to the economic struggles of being an adult. But nevertheless, my faith, my wife, my children, my culture and the resilience in me, help me move forward in this on-going fight for a better future, a better life and a better me for tomorrow.

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