Mother and daughter earn their diplomas
HAGATNA (AP) - When Genevie and Generay Chiguina walked off the stage at the University of Guam Calvo Field House, they had a lot more in common than their last name.
They are mother and daughter (Genevie is 40, Generay, 21). They both dropped out of high school, 16 and pregnant. Both got a crash course on how to be a mother.
Eventually, both found their way back, and both finally finished the high school classes they had started years ago.
On May 19, they celebrated their new Adult High School diplomas together. Both were recognized among Guam Community College’s 300-plus graduates, and both earned waves of applause, The Pacific Daily News reported Wednesday.
Generay Chiguina was happy she finished but didn’t like all the attention. But she couldn’t help but smile with her mom, who bubbled with excitement.
“It was hard for her, but she was committed to it,” says Generay Chiguina. “I am happy for her. I think if she didn’t go to school, I might not have started.”
Genevie Chiguina and boyfriend Johnny Aldan had long raised their kids to place education first, so it wasn’t easy to see her daughter drop out of school. She held her tongue and led by example instead.
She got back into the workforce, first as sales support for DFS and then as a school cleaner for Advance Management. She worked at schools all around Guam and after a couple years, started classes in 2007 so she could take her GED, a high school equivalency test.
She stopped classes when she lost work hours but tried again.
“In 2010 I started cleaning at GCC and a year later, I started classes again. It was hard. I didn’t pass the test,” she says. But I decided I wasn’t going to give up.”
So mom went back to school for real. She enrolled in GCC’s Adult High School program, committing to two years of full-time work, plus classes Monday through Thursday.
“With me working there, seeing everything, it made me interested in what was going on,” says Genevie Chiguina. By then, she was the team leader of a six-person crew cleaning the campus, so she got to know the school staff.
The first year, she pestered her daughter to come back to school. Generay Chiguina finally relented last August.
“Every child gets tired of their mother’s mouth but she really pushed us,” says Generay Chiguina. “When my older brother Ray was going to school, my mom would actually follow him to make sure he got there.”
Although both were enrolled in the program, they didn’t see much of each other at school. Generay Chiguina already earned several credits, so she only needed a year of day school. Genevie Chiguina was already going full steam at night, and included some college classes in early childhood education.
Generay Chiguina, a former honor student, said the work was easy. Her mom did not agree.
“I started from the bottom, so many times I was really lost. My daughters really helped me,” says Genevie Chiguina. “Every semester I was done, I would thank God.”
Her other daughter, Janalynn, watched her mom struggle to type, to create lesson plans and study for tests. But she had faith.
“My mom was really humble the whole time, but I’ve seen my mom work all my life; she’s always been a hard worker,” says Janalynn Chiguina, 18. “We call her the ‘Master Cleaner.’ Every Saturday, that’s what we did.”
With diploma in hand, Generay Chiguina is excited about career opportunities. She’s interested in culinary school and law enforcement. She’s even considering the military.
“I really need to commit myself to getting in shape for the military, though,” she says, smiling. “Whatever I do, I’m thinking about what’s best for my kids.”
Genevie Chiguina’s school experience changed her life - and goals. She wants more, she says, and doesn’t want to spend the rest of her life cleaning schools.
“I’m going back to register for school now, and continue with Early Childhood. It’s real fun taking those classes and dealing with little kids with all the projects we do,” says Genevie Chiguina. “I like dealing with little kids. I can get a job doing this, maybe open my own business.”
Aldan, the man in her life for more than two decades, is happy and proud of his girls’ accomplishments.
“It’s hard to go somewhere out there without a diploma so now that the kids are all big, she’ll go and get a better job for herself. I work seven days a week so we can save up all the money we can and when she goes back to college, I will support her,” he says. “We’ve been together for 21 years. When she gets her bachelor’s, then, hey, we can get married.”