"Education is so important," former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush said. "It's the leading indicator of a successful life. If you can't read, write, calculate math, understand history, you're not going to be successful in life."
Below, is a copy of Maria's speech, which earned her a standing ovation at the event.
All of us at Southwest Florida College, are so proud of you, Maria!
Good evening everyone! My name is Maria Segura, and some of you may remember me as the speaker at the celebration three years ago. I’m happy to be invited back again . . . because I want to share with you my newest accomplishment . . . a real dream come true.
I have a bright horizon before me, thanks to an incredible “celebration” gift. In 2009, I became the first recipient of volunteer USA’s and the Florida Association of post secondary school and colleges scholarship program.
That scholarship landed me at Southwest Florida College. I was offered the opportunity to learn first-hand what it takes to be a teacher. From the time I stepped into my first college class, I knew teaching was what I was meant to do.
This past summer I received my associates of science degree from Southwest Florida College. I recall walking across the stage and saying to myself “those long hours of studying paid off. I am graduating with honors and my family is here supporting me.”
Now, I’m studying for the general knowledge test so I can continue my studies to earn a bachelor’s degree. Many good things have changed since 2009. Because I take seriously the value of an education . . . I am proud to be raising a family of college graduates!
My second son, Juan Carlos, is now a graduate of Ohio State University with two bachelor’s degrees. He works for the attorney general in Columbus, Ohio and plans to attend a program where he can obtain a law degree and a master’s degree at the same time.
My oldest son, Jose Luis Jr., just graduated in December from Ohio State, with a degree in Architecture. He plans to obtain his master’s degree, plus he’s the proud father of a new baby girl! I’m a grandmother!
My third son, Enrique Anthony, that one-time toddler, who 9 years ago helped me change my life at the Family Literacy Academy of Immokalee, is now 12 and a straight A student. And my youngest daughter, Analley, is in the first grade, earning straight A’s as well.
It is hard to express just how grateful I am. For those who don’t know my background, I lived most of my life as a migrant farmworker, same as my parents and my husband. I had no high school diploma, so my only option was to work in the fields to help my family make ends meet. I picked and packed produce everyday, even after I became a mother. I would bring along my children so I would not miss a day of work.
My oldest children sacrificed weekends and summer breaks to work in the fields too. It broke my heart watching them work under the extreme conditions, especially at a young age.
You can say that our life was pretty tough, but we stuck together. This was our life for 18 years. By the time my third son was a preschooler, I knew I had to make a change. I must sacrifice certain things to give my children a better life.
I just needed a chance, but as a mom with young children, I knew going back to school would be tough. That’s when I learned about the Family Literacy Academy of Immokalee. The wonderful people there welcomed not only my desire to learn, but also my toddler. Suddenly, English instruction, reading, writing and preschool classes were real.
I worked very hard to earn my GED and then my child development accreditation. Later, I was hired part-time to help children’s classes. Today, I am proud to be the lead preschool teacher.
It may have taken me a while to get to this point, but I have always taught my children that a good education will provide them with many wonderful opportunities.
So, as I stand here today, you see a different person. You no longer see a migrant farmworker. I’m still the wife of a supportive husband and the mother of four amazing children, but now I’m a college graduate and a teacher who will inspire a new generation.
Thank you for believing that it is worthwhile to help families learn together. Thank you for believing in me.
Southwest Florida College is an accredited, private institution of higher learning that is listening to employers and providing its students with lifetime placement assistance in today’s most demanding career fields. The college is located in Fort Myers, Tampa, Port Charlotte and Bonita Springs. The Institute of Interior Design is also located within the Bonita Springs campus. For more information, call toll free 888‐279-2342 or visit www.swfc.edu.