Eighteen young people are heading to jobs or college after graduating from Pima County’s Las Artes Arts & Education Center this week and passing their GED tests.
Most members of this first graduating class of 2012 came to the program after giving up on traditional high school.
“I never thought I’d be giving a speech about graduating” after leaving school two years ago, one of the students said Wednesday night at a dinner for the graduates and their families and friends.
The students thanked their families, friends and the Las Artes staff for “always encouraging me to do my best,” “never giving up on me,” and “going out of your way to make my life better.”
A few of the graduates who are parents themselves said they were inspired by their children to successfully complete the program and pursue a better life.
“Now I can be a better role model for my son,” one young woman said.
Las Artes, a program of the Pima County Community Services, Employment and Training Department at 23 W. 27th St. in South Tucson, combines structured classroom study with community art projects to prepare students for GED testing and to build their employability skills.
Working for eight weeks on a community art project helped the students appreciate and develop the discipline they needed to pursue their dreams. Studying for up to 24 more weeks helped them prepare for the GED tests.
Las Artes students’ murals, ceramic tiles and other artwork can been seen along South Tucson’s Fourth Avenue and on benches along Sahuarita’s main drag, from Marana’s Town Hall to a red, white and blue sports tribute at East Ajo Way and South Country Club Road.
They will be contributing to the public art that will be part of the Santa Cruz River Park between Silverlake Road and Ajo Way and the University of Arizona Bioscience Park at Kino Parkway and East 36th Street.
At the dinner and graduation ceremony this week, the graduates shared their plans to continue their education and pursue careers in health care, welding, fashion design, culinary arts, teaching and engineering.
“We need you to be successful,” Pima County Supervisor Richard Elías, District 5, told the graduates. “It’s going to make our community stronger. It’s going to make our community the place we want it to be.”
Las Artes has awarded more than 500 GEDs since it opened more than 15 years ago.
“This isn’t the end,” one of the graduates said. “It’s just the beginning for us.”
For more information about Las Artes, go to www.pima.gov/CED/CR/LasArtes.html.