Community spotlight: The education of Annette Hernandez-Carbajal

This blog post is authored by Career Online High School graduate Annette Hernandez-Carbajal and the Library's Workforce and Economic Development Librarian Matthew Landon.

“Never doubt yourself. I doubted myself for ten years,” Annette Hernandez-Carbajal said to me when we spoke over the phone in early February. She had just put the finishing touches on her valedictorian speech, to be given to the class of 2023 at the Career Online High School (COHS) graduation ceremony later that month. Annette had spent the better part of 2023 in Pima County Public Library’s (PCPL) online high school designed for adults in Pima County who did not finish traditional high school but who want a high school diploma.

I asked Annette why she chose to go for a diploma after all this time. Annette replied, “My son has type-1 diabetes and I wanted to do this to let him know that nothing will hold him back. That he can do anything and accomplish anything if he never gives up. I spent too many years thinking I was not good enough. The experience of enrolling, attending classes, studying and struggling, and finally graduating has let me feel that I am enough. I want to be an example for my two children.”

“I moved a lot when I was younger, I struggled academically, especially in math. I was always the new student, and I was afraid to ask questions. I spent time in California high schools, at Tucson High and in Job Corps. One day I just stopped going.” Annette’s experience is not unique. Parts of her story are common to the 23 others who graduated from PCPL’s Career Online High School in 2023, and to many of those enrolled in PCPL’s GED classes.

Career Online High School is an 18 month online high school program, open to Pima County residents aged 23 and older. The high school credits you’ve already earned can be applied to your degree. It’s an accelerated program and many people finish in less than 18 months. The COHS program is run by Smart Horizons, a Florida-based charter high school.

If you are looking to get your GED, PCPL also has High School Equivalency/GED classes at many of its branches. Most of the GED classes at the library are run by Literacy Connects, a local non-profit. Both COHS and GED classes are free to the public, courtesy of the generous support of the Pima Library Foundation as well as The Friends of the Pima County Public Library. Literacy Connects offers scholarships to help with the cost of the GED tests to students who attend regularly and make improvements over the course of their classes.

I asked Annette about how she managed to get through her studies. She told me, “My greatest support in this has been my family, my mom, my kids, my husband, my cousins, and my grandmother. I’m grateful to everyone at Smart Horizons and Pima County Public Library. My message to anyone out there who did not finish high school is there is no shame in not finishing. You never know what someone is going through and there is always a second chance.”

Get started with Career Online High School by taking the Readiness Survey on the home page.

Join a GED class at Valencia Library (bilingual), Quincie Douglas Library (Español), or Miller-Golf Links Library (English).