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Paying It Forward: 29 HCDE Adult Learners Rewarded at National Adult Education Honor Society Induction

Twenty-nine Harris County Department of Education Adult Education National Honor Society inductees are being recognized for “paying it forward” as they continue their education. From a grandmother who finds herself raising three grandchildren to a child abuse victim committed to helping others, the selected adult honorees are determined to help others while bettering themselves.

The students recognized Tuesday, Dec. 3 at 10 a.m. at HCDE, 6300 Irvington Blvd., are celebrated for challenging adversity in order to study English as a second language (ESL) and to gain the academic knowledge to pass the GED exam. The National Adult Education Honor Society recognizes adult learners who excel as leaders and overcome difficult circumstances to pursue adult learning successes. Inductees also visibly improve their lives and others through learning.

“These students are nominated by their teachers who are inspired by their zeal and dedication to going back to school,” said Eduardo Honold, HCDE Adult Education director.  “They overcome overwhelming obstacles and are eager to learn each day.  Moreover, they share a common desire to help fellow students and others along the way. “

HCDE serves students through its Adult Education Irvington Learning Center, 6515 Irvington and from learning centers and classrooms located in urban and suburban areas.  Service areas include northeast Houston, Spring Branch, Cypress Fairbanks, Katy, Pasadena, Baytown, Klein, Alief and Galena Park.  In total, 65 satellite locations in 15 school districts serve more than 10,000 adults annually. Classes include ESL, citizenship, workplace literacy, adult basic education and GED preparation. For more information about classes, call 713-692-6216 or go to

The following 29 students are inducted into the National Adult Education Honor Society at HCDE in 2013: Jorge Andrade, Marina Arredondo, Griselda Calzada-Cervantes, Mildred Cockerman, Luciana Diaz, Alejandra Falcon, Ernestina Garcia, Brenda Garcia, Alejandra Gomez, Cynthia Hernandez, Francisco Hernandez, Nicole Hunter, Tania Mandujano, Moosa Mithani, Mirna Moreno, Omar Muniz, Monica Navarro, Danayze Rivero, Margaret Romano, Elizabeth Ruiz, Ana Lidia Sandoval, Martha Sepulveda, Summer Stevenson, Juan Antonio Torres, Juanita Tugmon, Reyes Urias, Jr., Yara Valdez, Tania Vazquez and Maria Velazquez.

The following are some success stories from communities throughout Harris County:


Mildred Cockerham (77032), classroom in Channelview, Texas, (teacher Angelete Delmar, adult basic education and GED):

As an adult student, volunteer and primary caregiver to her three grandchildren, Mildred Cockerham is busy in the classroom, the community and the home front.  Health problems have plagued Cokerham, but she doesn’t let her two heart attacks and strokes slow her down.

“After my stroke I had to force myself to get up in the morning,” Cockerham said. “My self esteem was very low.  Since continuing my education, I have confidence, a purpose and a goal that I can do something to better myself.”

Teacher Angelete Delmar says the student she nominated for the award was recently heralded for her community volunteerism by local Houston radio talk show host Tony Gill. Cockerham’s enthusiasm extends to her classmates.

“Before class, she makes sure all her classmates have the assignments they missed and encourages them to continue class,” said her adult basic education teacher Angelete Delmar.


Martha T. Sepulveda (77093), classroom at 6300 Irvington Blvd., Houston, Texas, (teacher assistant Hilda Ramos, ESL):

Student Martha Sepulveda began her educational journey several years ago and has moved from beginning ESL to the advanced level.  As a Mexican immigrant, she only attended school through ninth grade in her native country.

Teacher assistant Hilda Ramos says her student occasionally misses class due to work, but she always returns and makes up her assignments.

“One of her motivations to learn English is to be able to communicate with her supervisors that do not speak Spanish,” said Ramos.Her student travels to class through two bus routes because she doesn’t have a car.

“She has earned respect from her classmates because she will go out of her way to help others,” Ramos said.

As a show of support for her classmates, Sepulveda helps iron several hundred graduation robes which HCDE GED graduates don every year.  Program manager Angela Johnson is certain that someday soon Sepulveda will be ironing the one she will wear to get her diploma.


Nicole Rosemarie Hunter (77082), classroom in Alief Community Center, (teacher Caroll Hodo, GED):

Nicole Rosemarie Hunter, 44, does not like to think of herself as a quitter, but four years ago she became frustrated with her GED studies and returned to her job as a waitress.  After being laid off, she realized the value of an education.  She enrolled in adult basic education classes to work on the skills she would need to study for a GED.

An essay she wrote about her mother awakened a confidence in her abilities as a student and a writer.  Since then, she continues to work on her studies and helps other students.  Recently she passed three of the five GED tests, said teacher Caroll Hodo.

With persistence, she went on to pass the remaining two tests and gained her GED in November 2013, a year after she began her education journey. Her next goal is to get into nursing school.

“I realize the reason I was fired from my waitressing job was to better myself,” she said.  “Getting my GED has changed me.  For one thing, I am now able to help my daughter with her homework.”


Juanita Tugmon (77043), classroom at Shadow Oaks Elementary, Spring Branch, (teacher Rosie Williams, ESL):

At 65, Juanita Tugmon persists in her pursuit of education, despite working full time and taking care of her family. In her native country of Mexico, Tugmon only made her way through fourth grade after her grandfather had a disagreement with her teacher. Thereafter, she spent her young years working on a farm before moving to Texas with her father.

She is a longtime volunteer in her grandchildren’s classrooms at Shadow Oaks Elementary because she believes in the value of education.

“Mrs. Tugmon speaks of being a senior citizen, but her enthusiasm, energy and eagerness for learning belies her years,” said her ESL teacher Rosie Williams.  “She enjoys learning and is open to new experiences and helping others.”


Marina Arredondo (77084), classroom in Katy, Texas, (teachers Diane Herzik, Neera Chopra and Enola Tanksley):

Marina Arredondo is an advocate for other students and for incest and child abuse victims like herself.

“Just because life was not good to me as a child doesn’t mean I have to give up on life,” she insists.

Arredondo’s leadership in the GED classroom is evident as she mentors, tutors and leads other students in the classroom, says teacher Diane Herzik. She is a beacon of hope to others.

The mother of three was counseled and assisted by Katy Christian ministries.  Through HCDE, she attends GED classes.  As a spokesperson for sexually abused children through Katy Christian Ministries, Arredondo plans to eventually become a psychologist to make a difference in victims’ lives.

“Just like all those people that have made a difference in my life,” she said.


Media Contact:

Carol Vaughn

Communications/Media Relations Manager

Communications and Public Information

713-696-0756, office

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