Emily Gonzalez Blacio: ‘I Know Now What Needs To Be Done In My Life’ Thanks To Walnut Creek Campus
Emily Gonzalez Blacio’s educational and life journey consists of numerous “trials and errors,” as she put it.
Having been at Walnut Creek Campus for a year-and-a-half, though, the 20-year-old senior has grown to love the school for setting her up for success—something she felt early on that she couldn’t reach.
“I feel like you get to have a close connection with each of your teachers. I can ask them anything,” Emily explained. “I’ve never felt pressure from any of my teachers. They’re like, ‘If you want to get something done, then we’re going to help you.’ That’s how I’ve gotten through all of my stuff, because they have always been there to help me.
She didn’t care about school when she was younger. Her father, Angel, was deported to his home country of Ecuador when Emily was just 7 years old.
“That had really manifested into a depression,” she said. “I didn’t care to have many friends or to be part of activities after school. I just wasn’t involved with my schoolwork. I either stayed home or I went to work.”
Emily first attended a Des Moines high school but had to drop out at age 17.
“My whole high school career, my grades were really bad,” Emily said. “I got all Fs and Ds.”
Before dropping out, she gave birth to her first son, Mateo. When he was about 3 months old, Emily attended Des Moines Area Community College (DMACC) in pursuit of a General Education Diploma, also known as a GED.
“That was really hard, and no one talks about how hard it is to get a GED,” she said. “I ended up having to leave (DMACC) because I also had to work.”
In August 2017, Emily enrolled at Valley High School. Her second son, Roman, was about 3 weeks old when she started classes. Gonzalez Blacio was doing well until her child care fell through, causing turmoil in her daily schedule.
“I missed all of my finals except for one, and I didn’t get any of my credits,” she explained. “I was 18, and I needed 22 credits to graduate high school.”
Guidance counselors at Valley recommended that Emily attend Walnut Creek Campus, West Des Moines Community Schools’ alternative high school. She admits that she was hesitant when the route was first presented.
“I didn’t want to come here because I thought that this was like all of the other alternative schools, where everyone is bad,” Emily said. “But I felt that it was my only option because I was 18 and running out of time.”
Today, Emily and other Walnut Creek Campus seniors are set to graduate May 23. A day before commencement, Emily will turn 21. She credits her sons, Mateo, now 3, and Roman, 1, as her inspiration in accomplishing this long-awaited goal.
“I think my children have humbled me more, and I have more respect for people,” Emily explained.
Her husband, Cesar, the father of their two boys, deserves the most credit, though. He has played a huge role in making sure Emily earned her high school diploma.
“I don’t think I would have gotten through school if he wasn’t my financial supporter through all of this,” she said. “He’s always been really hardworking; he works two jobs. It’s day and night for him. He didn’t get the opportunity to finish school since we had our kids so young. Now that I’ve finished, this is an opportunity for him to continue and to finish his diploma because he deserves it, too. He just put himself on hold for me.”
Lots of emotions will run through Emily’s mind when she walks across the stage and has her diploma in hand. She’ll even have a large cheering section in attendance.
“I’m going to be happy, and I know I’m going to be sad. I’m sure I’ll cry because it took me a long time to get here, and I’m just happy that I did get here,” she said. “I want to go to college. I want to have a better life.
“I don’t think a lot of people thought I would finish high school, but I did.”
Emily wants to enroll as a part-time student at DMACC and study to become a neonatal nurse practitioner. She acknowledges how Walnut Creek Campus has made her a better student and a better person than she was when she first arrived.
Her words of advice for those who have the option to attend Walnut Creek Campus in the future?
“I would tell them to come here. You can get things done very fast, you just have to have determination,” Emily said. “Coming from someone who once had zero determination, that’s why I am graduating now. I’m graduating really late, but it’s better late than never.
“I really do like school now more than before. I’ve gotten this far—why not take it even further? I know now what needs to be done in my life in order to reach my goals.”