NAUGATUCK — Lisa Libreiro worked for a combined 28 years in a bank and as a paralegal before she was laid off in November.
She applied for jobs but did not have a high school diploma, so nobody would hire her. Finally, she decided to enroll at Naugatuck Adult Education.
“I was scared to death of the whole process because it’s been awhile; I should have graduated in 1984,” she said.
On Thursday, she was one of 21 people who graduated from the program in Naugatuck High School’s gymnasium, where 17 English Language Learners were also recognized for completing their program.
Libreiro, who finished her graduation requirements on March 31, was given the Adult Education Faculty Award, one of the top honors given by the program.
“They are so helpful here, and they helped me get through it,” she said. “It wasn’t easy. I would get up early in the morning and work until mid-afternoon to get my assignments done. So this was my full-time job.”
Currently, she is back to working for a paycheck: she has been hired as a paralegal by another law firm.
Teresa Rivera, 21, also spent hours on school work to get to the stage on Thursday. She left school in 2010 in New York. She decided to go back to set an example for her 2-year-old niece, Daniela, also known as “Chubba.”
“I didn’t want Chubba to follow in my footsteps,” Rivera said.
Rivera, who given the director’s award by Naugatuck Adult Education Director Heather Pelletier, plans to enroll in college and study psychology.
Valerie Marino, an adult education consultant with the State Department of Education, said the graduates made a bold move.
“You’ve taken a very important step: you’ve chosen to drop back in,” she said. “You saw the importance of obtaining a high school diploma, and it really is important. Despite all the odds, you did it. Whether you did it for your children, or you did it for your family, you also did it for yourself. And no one can take that away from you.”