Ombudsman, an America’s Promise partner, works with school districts to provide at-risk students with an alternate route to earn their high school diploma. Most of the students who attend the more than 100 Ombudsman learning centers throughout the country are at risk of dropping out due to issues with attendance, credits or academic skills, or adult responsibilities that hinder their success in a traditional classroom setting.

Ombudsman’s program involves a prescribed academic path designed to meet students’ specific needs and schedules, and small group learning activities. Teachers provide one-on-one instruction and guide students through the process of making positive choices about their eduction so they can become successful students and productive citizens.

Nationally, 85 percent of Ombudsman students graduate, earn credits or return to their district school closer to or at grade level. Since its founding in 1975, Ombudsman has served more than 132,000 students and partners with more than 120 school districts in 18 states.

During her preparations to earn a high school diploma, class of 2010 graduate Marilyn Serrano reflected on her experiences with Ombudsman and shared her struggles as a teen mom to inspire others like her to follow their dreams.

A Testimonial: Marilyn Serrano, Limestone, Ala.

Marilyn Serrano of Limestone, Alabama talks about her Ombudsman experience

Marilyn Serrano

I remember going to the movies and parties with my friends and my youth. At that time, I did not know what responsibility was. I am eighteen years old with a one year old daughter. Making a bad decision has changed my life forever. My baby is a gift from God. I do not regret having her, but I do wish that I would have waited longer to have her. I had to go to high school during my pregnancy and deal with all of the looks and gossip from people at school. Not just that, but going home and knowing that your mother looks at you in a different way. It broke my heart when she told me that she felt ashamed of me, and that I wasn’t her little princess anymore.

There were days when I just wanted to give up, but the love for my baby kept me going. When my beautiful baby girl was born, being alone without any kind of support was very difficult. Having to take care of a newborn baby is a twenty-four hour job. I could not even think of school, and I eventually had to drop out. That was the last thing I wanted to do, but I could not do both things at one time. Once my baby was adjusted to a regular schedule and was sleeping most of the time, I found myself thinking about my future. What was I going to do? Where would I work without a diploma? How was I going to tell my daughter to stay in school ‘when her mother had dropped out of high school?

That is when I realized that I had to make sacrifices to accomplish what I wanted. Leaving my baby was a really tough, but I had to do it not just for me but also for her. I had to repeat the eleventh grade because I had already missed too much school. I found out about Ombudsman through my counselor. She explained to me what this program was about. I am so grateful for this program and for the opportunity it has given me. Thanks to all of the teachers from Ombudsman. I have learned so much.

They have helped me in so many different ways. One thing that I have learned from Ombudsman is to never give up on your education. If you put your mind to it, you can accomplish so many things in this life.

They always motivated me to keep going and to want more in life because without an education you will not get very far. Ombudsman has given me the opportunity to further my education and try to correct mistakes made in my past. Ombudsman has given me a second chance just as my baby has. When I graduate from Ombudsman, I plan to start college this fall. I will try my best to become a registered nurse. Being a nurse will allow me to help others. I have always loved helping others and I have the determination and the strength to push myself. I will make it and accomplish what I set my mind to do.

Thank you, Ombudsman!