This Undocumented Woman Is Driven to Earn Her GED, Even if It Means Traveling 100 Miles Each Way

Lead Photo: Photo: Cassie Ronda/PIN Bureau
Photo: Cassie Ronda/PIN Bureau
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Once a week, Zahide Betancourt wakes up at 5 a.m., meets up with her friend, and travels 100 miles from Cottonwood, Arizona to Phoenix to take an 8:30 a.m. GED class at the Wilson Community Center. The 28-year-old travels 200 miles roundtrip, because there’s nowhere else she – an undocumented immigrant – can take this course. The struggles undocumented immigrants face when it comes to education access are well documented. But these stories mostly focus on the difficult that comes for undocumented immigrants when it comes to financial aid, scholarships, and in-state tuition.

10 miles away, at the Yavapai College, there’s a free GED prep course. But Zahide can’t attend classes there, according to Cronkite News. The course requires an Arizona ID, which Betancourt isn’t eligible for, despite having lived in Cottonwood almost her entire life. Born in Sonora, Zahide has lived in Arizona since she was 2 months old. The course – funded by the Arizona Department of Education – is only available to U.S. citizens because of Proposition 300. This measure limits adult-learning programs run through the state’s department “to adults who are citizens or legal residents of the United States.”

At Wilson Community Center, Zahide paid a $150 fee for the semester. She’s able to attend the class because the Mexican consulate set it up specifically for Mexican nationals. The center has offered the course for four years now, and even offers GED prep in Spanish to fit the needs of the rising number of people who are taking the test in Spanish.

Zahide – who dropped out of school when she became pregnant at 14 – hopes to eventually become a medical assistant or nurse. So far, she’s got the social studies test down. She’s hoping to ace the science, language arts, and math components this December. And no one’s more excited than her three children. “When I first told them, they were jumping up and down,” she said. “They’re really excited, and until now, they keep asking, ‘When’s graduation? How are your tests? How are you doing?’”

[H/T Cronkite News]