This blog post is part of our celebration of charter school graduates across the country and their achievements. Join us in celebrating our #CharterGrads!
My name is Beqir Gjoka and I am graduating from the Carlos Rosario International Public Charter School with my high school diploma. The path that got me here was long, but I I finally made it. I left high school in Albania after the collapse of communism, which left the country in a dramatic economic disaster. When it happened, my eldest brother was in college, my other siblings were too young, my parents were unemployed, and the burden of sustaining the family fell on my shoulders. I had to quit school and migrate to Greece. For seven years, I struggled in the fields and kitchens of Thessaloniki, missing out on school so that I could provide for my family.
In 2000, I returned to Albania and joined the army, making it into the very first unit of the Albanian Special Forces. It was a very selective process—out of 185 candidates, only 35 made it and I happened to be one of them. After 9/11, I was deployed a total of four times to Afghanistan and Iraq. I was awarded a Medal of Honor from the President of Albania for my service. On the final deployment in Mosul, Iraq, I met my wife, a Department of Defense (DOD) civilian, in 2008. This is how I ended up in America.
What I couldn’t achieve in my homeland, I was able to achieve here in the United States. I had many setbacks—I was studying a high school curriculum in a second language, my wife and I started a business, and I had four surgeries—all of which delayed my timeline, but I persisted. People kept telling me that I didn’t need a GED since I was already self-employed. But nothing was more important to me than completing my GED and going to college. With the resources and teachers at Carlos Rosario, I was able to achieve my goal. Every day spent at Carlos Rosario is a good memory because I was pushing myself to achieve my goal.
Of course, I have lots of aspirations and dreams but education was the foundation of everything so I had to do it. My next goal is to complete my college degree. Education is never-ending and I intend to keep learning until the last day of my life. This summer, I’m enrolled in liberal studies at the University of the District of Columbia. After completing college, my goal is to study international policy and political science while running my multiple business and raising my three children.
Completing my GED was a five-year journey for me and graduating from Carlos Rosario is the rewarding result. For years, I had a big gap in my heart. I felt inadequate and unfulfilled. With my GED completed, I now feel whole
Beqir Gjoka is a graduate of the Carlos Rosario School International Public Charter School. Beginnign this summer, he will take corses at the University of the District of Columbia.
[Click to Tweet] After the collapse of communism in Albania, Beqir Gjoka dropped out of high school to provide for his family. Now, he has completed his GED at @CR_School in Washington, DC! #CharterGrads
You have worked so hard, and you are a role model for us all. You demonstrate how hard work and persistence can lead to a big payoff in the end. Congratulations!
It's been a pleasure following your progress these past few years! I'm absolutely thrilled for you and can't wait to see what's next.