Greater than the Sum of Our Parts: Student Sarah del Rosario
Sarah del Rosario is not afraid to be herself.
Outgoing, open, and friendly, Sarah will tell you just about anything about herself. She’ll readily talk to you about being transgender and the various communities she advocates for.
It’s this same unabating honesty that allows Sarah to know not just who she is, but what she wants, and what she needs to do to get it.
“I want to become a registered nurse, and to do that I need my GED®,” she says. “I want to work with people who have HIV/AIDS so I can help them feel better.”
This helpful impulse runs in her family: Sarah’s grandmother was a registered nurse, and now she wants to follow in her footsteps. It’s a goal that keeps her focused on coming to class every day. “I take it slow and steady and try not to rush, but I always keep my goal right there in front of me.”
Getting to this point wasn’t always easy. Growing up, Sarah was in foster care and moved around a lot. Coupled with ADHD, school was too difficult to keep up with, and she left in her late teens.
Sarah moved to Ohio about a year ago for a fresh start. A simple internet search led her to Seeds of Literacy, but the friendly help she found there kept her coming.
“It’s very one-on-one, very relaxed,” Sarah says. Plus she had the support of her community, who weren’t shy about prodding her along. “My family was like, ‘You’re going as much as you can.’”
Sarah immediately began attending classes at Seeds of Literacy every afternoon. After just a few months, her Language Arts skills had reached GED-levels. She felt nervous about taking the GED practice test at Seeds, but easily passed it. “It was very rewarding,” Sarah describes. “It encouraged me to work that much harder.”
Barely two weeks later, she was taking the official GED test for Reasoning through Language Arts. This was her first time taking any part of the GED. “I was scared that I would fail,” she says. “But I had faith in myself because of the training and work that I’d been doing at Seeds.”
Her nerves tried to get the best of her, whispering in her ear that she couldn’t have earned the 150 score needed to pass. But Sarah was confident in the work she had done, and when she saw that she passed the test with a score of 162?
“I just about screamed and jumped in the air! I was very, very, exuberantly happy.”
Now Sarah is focusing on Social Studies. When asked how that’s going, she groans (there’s that honesty again). “It’s hard. I’m having flashbacks of school, being in the classroom.”
But she goes on. “It’s taxing, but in a good way. There’s lots of tutoring, lots of help.”
Sarah is well on her way to a GED and becoming a registered nurse. Like all of the students at Seeds of Literacy, she came here to take control of her future.
But also like all of Seeds of Literacy’s students, Sarah is a complex, layered person, with her own background and her own motivations.
After our interview, I mention to Sarah that I want to respect being transgender as the important part of her identity that it is, but I didn’t want her to feel like we were spotlighting it. “I’d prefer if you’d spotlight it!” she answered. “It’s important to talk about.”
“I know a lot of transgenders are scared to come out to public places, but at Seeds there’s no discrimination. You’re there to learn and that’s all that matters.”
Being transgender grounds Sarah’s identity while simultaneously being something she transcends. Like all people, she is not a single part of her sum self. We fit into a variety of categories, but we all share certain qualities, like needing help now and then.
This is something Sarah wants everyone to understand about the variety of people who are working toward their GEDs.
“It’s not just low-income, black, white,” Sarah explains about the people who come for adult education. “It’s trans, gay, straight, old, young. You can be wealthy or transgender and still need help, still need an education.”
“And I feel that Seeds of Literacy is open to anyone of any walk of life. And I’m thankful for it.”
Update, February 2016: Sarah passed her GED test!