For the past 12 years, Dafani Peralta has regretted not finishing high school.
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The Paterson, New Jersey, mom of six had to drop out when she was a sophomore after she became pregnant with her first child, a daughter named Viarnneyra.
The 28-year-old tried to return to school a few times over the years, but something always got in the way. She had a hard time securing child care, got pregnant again, or simply didn’t have the time or money to get her high school equivalency (GED) diploma.
Her first big break came when she and her husband, Ramon De La Cruz, qualified for a Habitat for Humanity program for low-income families. They finally moved into their first house, giving Dafani the stability and security she needed to focus on self-improvement.
Surprisingly, the COVID-19 pandemic turned out to be the next blessing in disguise for Dafani. She learned that the Spanish High School Equivalency program at Paterson Adult & Continuing Education had been moved online for safety reasons. When her sister-in-law then offered to come visit and watch the kids so she could study, Dafani felt like her prayers were finally being answered.
“I was asking God for this opportunity to do it from home, from the computer, and I thought it was an impossible thing to happen, but I asked anyways,” she said. “I thought this is the time and I’m not going to quit this time.”
For the next month, Dafani took online classes and studied around the clock. The coursework had been condensed from three months into just one, but Dafani was determined not to let this opportunity slip through her fingers.
In July, all of Dafani’s hard work came to fruition. She was one of only nine students out of 20 to ace her exams and earn her GED from the New Jersey Department of Education.
Her daughter Viarnneyra was the first in line to celebrate the major accomplishment with her!
“The day that I told her that I passed all of my tests, she said we had to go to a bakery and celebrate it because she saw all my hard work,” Dafani explained. “She said, ‘I’d go to your room and you were studying. It was nighttime and you were still studying. I saw the hard work and now we have to celebrate it.'”
At the end of the day, Dafani and her husband just want to remind their kids “what’s possible.” All of the doors that had been closed to her are now open, and Dafani is even considering taking some college classes. We’re so proud of this hardworking mom for persevering and setting such a fine example for her kids!
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