The former stay-at-home mom of five has already earned her bachelor’s in healthcare administration, starts master’s in early 2022

Born and raised in El Salvador, Jeannette Ruiz migrated to the U.S. in 1985 when she was 15 years old. She left her father in the capital city of San Salvador, and by herself, journeyed to Los Angeles, California, to live with her mother. 

After arriving in the U.S., she enrolled in a local high school, but dropped out before she could graduate when she became pregnant with her first child. 

In 1991, she met and married her husband. They soon had five children (and stepchildren) to take care of, so Ruiz decided to become a stay-at-home mom. 

While she found great satisfaction in raising her children, the desire to go back to school and graduate with her diploma never left. And with her children growing up and having children of their own, Ruiz decided it was time to prioritize herself again.

Via a Facebook post, Ruiz discovered that the Career Online High School (COHS) program was offered through her local public library. 

“The only prerequisite was having a Los Angeles Public Library card,” Ruiz said. “And, not only could I earn my high school diploma, but I could earn a certificate in office management, as well.”  

Finding an online high school that treats students like adults 

Ruiz quickly found the flexibility at COHS to suit her lifestyle as a working parent. 

“I had tried another online high school before COHS, but it wasn’t for me. I found it to be more geared towards teenage students versus adult learners,” Ruiz said. “I didn’t feel any sense of trust. And when I needed help with a course or subject, they weren’t very encouraging—or professional.” 

In comparison, Ruiz shared that both the library staff and her COHS Academic Coach were kind and supportive. 

“My Academic Coach was amazing! I loved her so much. Her encouragement was incredible,” Ruiz said. “When I was having difficulty with math, she helped me through. When I was struggling, she reached out with tips and practice tests to help me improve for the next time.” 

Ruiz would go on to complete her high school diploma in just 13 months. She graduated in November 2018 and immediately enrolled in university coursework. 

Satiating a thirst for knowledge—and achieving her goals 

Just this past November, Ruiz graduated with a bachelor’s in healthcare administration from the University of Phoenix. While her goal of graduating from college was achieved, it was also a bittersweet moment for her. 

“My beloved husband passed away from COVID-19 earlier this year, so he didn’t get to see me graduate. I graduated in his honor,” shared Ruiz. 

And she’s not stopping there. Upon graduating, Ruiz enrolled to earn a master’s degree. She starts at the University of Phoenix in March 2022. 

“I love to study, learn, and ask questions. I’m thirsty for knowledge,” she said.  

Empowering her loved ones to blaze their own trails 

Ruiz also plans to continue to encourage her family, friends, and colleagues to pursue their education, as well. She’d especially love to see one of her daughters finish high school via the COHS program.

“I understand now—especially after earning my high school diploma and my bachelor’s degree online—that everyone learns differently. A traditional classroom setting isn’t for everyone.” 

Ruiz shared that being an advocate for the COHS program is her “token of gratitude.”  

“It works! I tell people that they just need to try it. Because I know they won’t regret it.” 

She hopes to pass on her enthusiasm for knowledge and education to her children, and all her loved ones, so that they can find their own paths in life like she has. 

“I always say, it’s okay to hesitate, but it’s not okay to give up on yourself.” We don’t see Ruiz giving up on herself—or those she cares about most—any time soon.