Sacramento City USD - Adult & Continuing Education
After graduating in 1985 from North Rockland High School in New York, Ruth Rosa says she "was on top of the world." She immediately started her college education at Long Island University in pursuit of a degree in accounting. "All I ever wanted was to become a Certified Public Accountant," she says, but after a year and a half she was forced to quit when on campus living became unaffordable. Even the after class job wasn’t enough to help, and with great reluctance Ruth moved back home and attended the nearby community college. It was the first of many harsh experiences she would endure.
Not long after, Ruth met the man who would become the father of her two boys. "I thought that this man was going to take care of me," she says. "Well, as it turned out, that is not what happened. He was always out and never home with the kids and me."
So Ruth decided to go back to school and continue pursuing a career in accounting; not only to provide for her self, but to support her two growing children. After only two weeks, she received news she didn’t want to hear from the financial aide office; she did not qualify for any grants. "I didn’t have the money to pay for my schooling," Ruth recalls. Unable to qualify for student loans due to an earlier default at Long Island University, she stayed home with the kids while her husband worked.
"As time went by, I found myself living off AFDC because he did not want to support the kids or for that matter his wife – me!" exclaims an obviously angry Ruth. Without money enough to rent a decent apartment, Ruth and the kids ended up living in a motel. "I can tell you, with two small kids that was not the ideal place to be," she remembers. "There were so many people living there. Drug addicts, prostitutes, a little of everything that was not good. From the motel, the boys and I ended up in a shelter. That was a horrible place to be. We had to share a room with many other people, and that wasn’t the worst of it. People would take your belongings without asking, they would sneak in and you couldn’t sleep, and I really feared for the safety of my boys and myself. So I decided to try and work things out with my husband and we got a place together.
"Once we began living together again, things were great until he started beating on me. I knew that I had to get away because I did not deserve to be hit on. My kids did not deserve to see their mother being abused, or live in violence."
Not knowing what else to do or who to turn to, Ruth called her mother in Sacramento and told her she needed to move closer and get away from the abuse. The Department of Social Services paid the plane fare to California, and in December of 1991, she arrived in Sacramento to live with her mother for about a month until she could find her own apartment.
Ruth continues, "A year goes by when I meet the father of my girls. I was with him for about seven years. With this man I learned what it was like to have money, cars, jewelry, and anything else I wanted. This man was all about selling drugs. After a while, I knew that this was not what I wanted. I knew I had to give my kids a better life. They deserve better – what the hell was I thinking? I took a hard look at my life and something told me that these kids were going to look at life as all I have to do is be on social service collecting money, and if that didn’t work they could go out and sell drugs." It was a turning point for Ruth as she decided, "Under no circumstances was I going to allow for that to happen, so I needed to turn my life around, now.
"I started looking for work, and that was hard," she continues. "I had no experience at all so any good job, I didn’t apply for. I was starting to get discouraged, but I did not give up."
With discouragement beginning to take its toll, Ruth received a call from a facility which treats memory impaired seniors. "I though I was on top of the world because I would be earning a paycheck." She ended her relationship with the girl’s father, and was now raising four kids on her own, but she had a job. "I had to work really long hours just to be able to pay the rent and to buy food for my kids. There were many nights when I went to bed hungry because what I was earning wasn’t enough. But I made due."
The kids were bigger now, and Rosa knew, "that if I was going to make good money, I needed to go back to school." Social Services helped her, and Rosa enrolled in the Charles A. Jones Skills and Business Education Center in Sacramento, but to make ends meet, she still had to work full-time. "After committing myself to going back to school, I still ended up working, because lets face it, who is going to pay the bills and get the kids what they need? So I was working a full-time job and going to school full-time as well. There were many nights of not sleeping, but I was going to bring myself from where I was to something better, and this I did for myself and definitely for my kids. To show them that no matter how old you are you can always go back to school and do what you need to do to become someone that you want."
Hardships continued to come. Rosa was no longer on welfare, but raising four kids still proved costly, and there never seemed to be enough money. Electricity bills went unpaid, and a new car was repossessed. Rosa’s low self esteem began to take advantage of her, and she became discouraged and depressed. "I wanted to quit, but every time I was going to withdraw from school, [instructor] Patricia Bradshaw made me see all the potential that I had inside me. A lot of the staff from the skills center were a great influence on me. They believed in me when no one else did, and I am grateful for them. If they weren’t there, I would not be who I am today."
Ruth’s life was taking its most positive turn yet. Before she completed the program, Mrs. Bradshaw asked her to work with her as an Aide, boosting Ruth’s confidence and giving her more determination than ever. "At times Ruth would talk to me and I realized she needed someone to talk to," says Mrs. Bradshaw. "Ruth’s life had been turned upside down and inside out. Here is a woman who had been abused emotionally, left to raise four children and was trying to receive education in a field she was not familiar with."
Through the school, Ruth had the opportunity to give back through community service. She participated in collecting clothes for the clothes closet, helping at health fairs, answering phone for KVIE fund drives and performing community service with the Medical Society. She continues to be an advocate for the school, relating the difference it has made in her life.
It has made a world of difference. Ruth completed the program and is today the President of the California Medical Assistant Association Sacramento Region. She is also employed by the Sacramento City Unified School District as a Lab Technician and says, "I am able to give back what was given to me 2 ½ years ago. They showed me that I was someone special and that my children and I deserve a better quality of life. I know this is not where I am going to stop. I plan on furthering my education."
Ruth sums it all up this way, "This is what the American dream is all about. A helping hand from people who care and believe that you can do what ever it is that you set out to do. Not holding anyone down, but helping him or her get ahead. Adult Education is a great place to get a quality education. My life is a definite example of what it is. I am a much stronger and better person because of the people at the skills and business center. They believed when I did not believe in myself."