SAN DIEGO (KGTV) — Tracy Naputi loves her life — but it wasn't always that way.
She was a single mother, trying to support her five children, while working at McDonald's. Until she took a leap of faith and fortitude and signed up for the San Diego County Community College's career education program.
Naputi worked, got her kids home from school, helped with homework, then went to classes at night. She received her education in bio technology, and like 70 percent of fellow career education grads, found a job within a year.
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“It's life changing. Consider the fact that if you get more education, you'll increase your income by a half million dollars over the course of your life-time versus you didn't go to school,” says college counselor Rick Cassar.
Cassar says their programs in manufacturing, health, communications, life sciences, cybersecurity and more are middle-skill positions, which are often hard to fill in San Diego.
The programs offer a step up financially for many people who are struggling, bringing them into positions that often pay $20 to $40 an hour — and are in demand.
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For some students it's totally free through the Promise Program. For the rest, it's only $46 a unit. A small price that often leads to jobs that pay anywhere from $50,000 to $100,000 a year, for positions such as paralegals.
Dr. Marsha Gable, interim president at Miramar College, says in one to two years students have the education, counseling, tutoring, resume help, and business partnerships to make them employable.
For Naputi, she feels now she's a role model for her children. And looking back, the biggest change for her kids?
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"They're most proud of having Christmas, having a tree, gifts under the tree, a nice place to stay," Naputi said. "Getting that certificate, it wasn't just a piece of paper. It was a license to get out there and do something you're passionate about."