For local dropouts, a tough road ahead

CORPUS CHRISTI — After Christina Benavidez got pregnant in high school, she dropped out. It is a decision she has regretted since.

Benavidez, 32, has struggled to find work since she left Roy Miller High School, located in Texas,  in 1995, holding only a few part-time jobs for minimum wage every now and then. She said at one point she became so desperate for a job that she started writing on her applications that she had a high school diploma – it did not work. “During the interview, they wanted to show copies [of diploma or G.E.D.], or they wanted the number that the G.E.D. diploma had on it.”

Benavidez, who still lives at home with her mother and five children, has not worked in more than a decade which has caused her to turn to welfare. “When I dropped out it was basically food stamps, Medicaid, all the government assistance you can find, and some more.” She left her last job as a retail clerk in 2002, and has only had a few interviews since.

Tuloso-Midway High School dropout A.J. Clark has a similar story. He quit during his sophomore year, and has not been able to find anything but temporary, minimum wage jobs since. He said the jobs he has gotten are mostly manual labor and do not pay enough to support his family. “It’s very hard with no education involved. Having kids is a big step.”

Clark, 22, who has three children, lives at home with his parents, wife and four-month-old daughter.

But life is starting to turn around for both Clark and Benavidez. They have recently received their G.E.D.s and are planning on going to college – Clark for welding and Benavidez for cosmetology.

But their story is a common one across the state. According to the Texas Education Agency, more than 20,000 students drop out of high school each year. That number, however, has steadily fallen over the past several years.

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