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All-American Success Stories in Workforce Education

 From Strawberry Fields to a Master's Degree

Guadalupe Lamas
First Place Winner, Adult Education,
Region 4

Guadalupe Lamas emigrated from Mexico in 1969 at the age eight. By nine, she was working in the fields picking strawberries. The eldest of eight children, she dropped out of school at the age of 12 to join her parents full-time in the fields. Her teen years consisted of traveling throughout the United States as a migrant farm worker. Guadalupe married Luis Lamas in 1983 and together they continued to travel and work on farms.

In 1986, she heard about a class sponsored by the Hillsborough County Adult Migrant Program that was designed to assist farm workers in continuing their education. While receiving assistance from the Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program, she was offered a position in that office. After receiving her State of Florida High School Diploma, Guadalupe pursued a career in nursing and eventually earned her bachelor's and master's degrees.

Today, Guadalupe is the parish nurse for Saint Joseph's Hospital working with the Hillsborough County Adult Education program that helped achieve her dream. Not only is she an advocate for farm worker rights and issues, but she is also an adult education instructor teaching certified nurse assistant classes for the migrant community.

Guadalupe is proud of her farm working background, but she would like current farm workers to know that they have other opportunities. In fact, they can do anything they want, and education is the key. Aware that many migrants consider a higher education beyond their grasp, she always encourages them to take the small steps that will eventually help them achieve the American dream of freedom and prosperity. Guadalupe Lamas is considered the "Mother Teresa" of the surrounding migrant community.

 Her Determination Motivates Others

June Barber
Second Place Winner, Adult Education,
Region 4

When June and her four-year-old son entered the Even Start Family Literacy Program, her fervent desire was to become the first high school graduate in her family. After a year of intensive study, June took her GED exam and passed all sections except mathematics. Refusing to give up, June conquered her lifelong fear of math and earned her diploma in 1997. Her involvement with Even Start, coupled with her frequent volunteer efforts, helped to land her a part-time job as a cafeteria aide and teacher's assistant in her son's school. Her tireless efforts to benefit others led to a full-time position as an office clerk the following year. June has since completed several classes and workshops.

In recognition of these numerous achievements, June was awarded the Certificate of Distinction for Support Staff in 2001, and has also twice been nominated as the Support Staff of the Year for Pinellas County Schools.

During her six-year tenure with the school system, she has been an advocate for adult education and family literacy programs. Principals have recognized her volunteer efforts by awarding her with certificates of appreciation for motivating students to succeed. June is an active member of the Parent Teacher Organization. In addition, she volunteers with a county-wide parenting program called Families and Schools Together (FAST), which coordinates children's activities and assists in parenting discussions.

If success is defined as the achievement of goals, then June Barber epitomizes the concept. Her dedication and determination to succeed in the face of adversity has enabled her to accomplish her academic goals and fulfill some lifelong dreams.

For more information on the All-American Success Stories, see