GED grad pays it forward

September 4, 2017

Public Relations

Twenty-six-year-old Shantelle Artis broke into tears when she walked into orientation at Palo Alto College last summer — not because she was overwhelmed by the path ahead, but because she had come full circle. Artis attended classes at Palo Alto College during high school through Gateway to College, an alternative learning program that helped at-risk students earn a high school diploma. After dropping out and with over a decade of struggling to find her ambition, she was back on campus — this time attending Palo Alto College’s Adult Learning Academy’s GED review course. 

“I had a flashback of this little girl, and now here I am – a woman, walking in with a different mentality,” said Artis. “I am determined now. I have confidence. My self-esteem has increased.”

Getting there wasn’t easy. Artis’ story began when she moved from Queens, New York to Floresville, Texas at the age of 16. She had a difficult time adjusting and says she lost interest in everything she once considered important. Having once dreamed of attending a prestigious university and having a successful career, Artis began struggling socially and academically. Two years later, Artis hit rock bottom when she found herself homeless, pregnant, and in despair.

“I lost my value, my self-worth. I lost everything, and I just became a totally different person,” said Artis. 

Slowly, Artis started taking steps to turn her life around. She moved home and got a job. She also connected with a mentor, who consistently encouraged her to discover greatness within herself. After years of self-discovery, Artis realized she wanted to do for others what her mentor had done for her: she wanted to pay it forward and work with at-risk youth. She began working at Texas Workforce Solutions, serving as a case manager for 16 to 24-year-olds; there, she is tasked with helping them develop short- and long-term goals and coaching them on the importance of education. 

“Mentorship holds you accountable first, and that’s how you know that it’s real and genuine,” said Artis. She, too, needed to continue her education. “You can’t encourage someone to do something that you’re not doing.”

In 2016, Artis found Palo Alto College’s Adult Learning Academy (ALA) and enrolled in the 8-week GED High School Equivalency Certificate review course that meets in the evening. When she came to campus for orientation, she realized that the ALA was located in Ozuna Library and Learning Center – the same building where she had attended Gateway to College a decade before. 

“I was coming back to this same place, but I came back different this time,” said Artis. “Sometimes you try to run away from things in your past, but God brought me right back to a place I kept running from. And this time, I’m going to finish.”

Artis met with Lydia Hannawi, continuing education specialist for the ALA, to discuss the GED review course program. 

“I could hear from the enthusiasm in her voice that she was serious. She had a glimmer of light in her eyes that, after working with so many students, I could see,” said Hannawi. “I knew she was going to complete it and that she was focused.”

By January 2017, Artis passed all four subjects of GED testing and received her high school equivalency certificate. Artis said she fell out of her chair and cried tears of joy when found out she passed.

“It makes me want to come back [to Palo Alto College] because I feel like when I graduate, it’s not just going to be me succeeding. Palo Alto is going to be right there with me, cheering me on,” said Artis. “The type of relationships at Palo Alto are sincere and genuine. They’re rooting for you when you graduate. They’re not successful if you’re not successful.”

Passing the GED was just the beginning of her journey; Artis is enrolling at Palo Alto College in fall 2017 to begin pursuing her associate degree and plans to continue her education to earn bachelor’s and master’s degrees in social work. 

“Everything is opening through GED and coming to Palo Alto College. It’s been amazing, and it’s why I’m such a big advocate for education—especially GED. It’s crucial that you get it done,” said Artis.