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Leonor Constancio: It’s Never Too Late

February 08, 2010

Though circumstances may change, the value of a college education remains constant.  That’s why Leonor Constancio decided to start college at an age she prefers not to discuss.

Sure, her own son is in college and she has a new grandson, but when she left high school she needed to make a living. Consequently, she just never got around to college before now.

When Angelo State initiated its Employee Tuition Exemption Program last fall, Constancio, who works as publications assistant in ASU’s Communications and Marketing Office, decided it was time. 

“I’ve always wanted a degree,” she said, “and I always regretted that I had chosen the easy way out and gotten a diploma from a business college. It was fast and easy and I had life to live and no time to waste. Not to mention, I thought I couldn’t afford college anyway. It was just something that was not a part of my plan, or so I thought.”

A career, though, was part of her plan. Her work ethic, interpersonal skills and sense of humor ultimately helped her get a well paying job with great benefits at a San Angelo company. She planned to retire there.

“Well, that didn’t happen,” Constancio said. “The company closed its doors and after 15 years, I was left to start all over again and find a new career. I found myself looking at jobs that paid what I was used to making only to discover that they all required a degree. I had to start all over again. It didn’t matter how much experience I had or how great I thought I was, without that college degree nobody was ever going to see my value.”

Last fall she started taking classes, psychology because she wanted to and math because she had to. Though apprehensive about being in classes with students young enough to be her son, she soon realized that she brought to class a different set of life skills which served her well. 

“All the fears I had were really unfounded,” Constancio said. “I remember realizing that anybody who wants to can go to college. All you have to do is try. As for the time factor, well, time goes by anyway, so why not work at the degree as it passes?”

On top of that, it helps her relate to her son, Levi, in a way he was probably not prepared for.

“Now I call my son and ask him how his grades are,” Constancio said. “Of course, I have to brag about how his mom is going to one-up him on the GPA. I feel him cringe!”

She is proud, of course, that Levi is a third-year studio art/graphic design major at the University of Texas at El Paso and that he has taken her advice to pursue his education early. By contrast, her parents never finished high school. 

“We were encouraged to stay in school and graduate, but no one really ever encouraged us to go farther. Higher ed was not a way of life for our family,” Constancio said.

“My advice to high school students is don’t wait to start college and don’t even think about not going. Do it now because you don’t want to be me in 20 years. My advice to people my age or anyone who has desired that degree, ‘Do it! Don’t waste another minute!’ I get asked a lot if it is hard. My answer is ‘It’s hard work, but something worth having never comes easy.” 

Taking six or so hours a semester while working full time means, it will take her a while, but she is okay with that. As she entered her second semester as a student this spring, she forwarded her supervisor a story about a 100-year-old woman who finally got her college degree, then died the next day. 

“After reading that, I don’t know whether to speed up or slow down,” she said.