At age 46, Jessica Fuentes believed her chance to graduate from high school had passed her by. She went to school in Eldorado and would have been part of the 1995 EHS graduating class, but she dropped out after becoming pregnant.

Marriage and raising a family interrupted her plans after that and she didn’t think about returning to the classroom.

“I was young and dumb,” Jessica says, “I didn’t like school and I didn’t have to go back because Donny was making a living for me.”

Jessica said she devoted the intervening years to raising her family. Her children, Abby and Deonn both graduated from Eldorado High School and her daughter, Abby Fuentes Ramos, teaches and coaches at the school.

Hers was an almost idyllic life in a small town where she could be close to family and watch her children grow up, go through school and participate in sports. Grandsons Devin and Carson only added to the joy.

The happy life went off the rails in 2020 when Jessica was diagnosed with thyroid cancer. It was a tough battle, but she overcame it and things were looking up when, on October 26th she, her husband Donny and their son Deonn all came down with COVID-19 . She and Deonn recovered, but Donny did not. He went in the hospital on November 5th and passed away on December 1st.

“I had a breakdown,” Jessica says. “ I lost the love of my life and then it hit me that I have no way to provide for myself. And, it didn’t help that I had not finished school.”

The idea of going back to school wasn’t a new one. Donny had encouraged her to think about it several years earlier. She even enrolled in the PAYS school in San Angelo, where she completed one English course.

It was difficult, however, and having been told that she needed several more credits, Jessica lost interest.

Then Donny died and the need to complete her high school education became more pressing.

“It was actually my daughter Abby who contacted the superintendent Mr. Robert Gibson. He got in touch with the counselor Lyndi O’Neil and they found out I only needed one more English credit,” Jessica said.

So, she signed up and completed the English 4 class online. Then, on Friday, September 3rd, she was called to school to complete some paperwork. At least, that’s what she thought.

But EHS Principal Perry Graves not only had a diploma waiting for her, he had a cap and gown, too. And, several friends and family members were waiting at the school to see her graduate.

Robert Gibson and Perry Graves were joined on EHS auditorium stage by school board president Kurtis Homer as a full blown graduation ceremony was held for Jessica Fuentes.

Her diploma identifies her as a member of the EHS class of 2021. And, although the ceremony was held on Friday, the diploma was dated on Saturday, September 4, 2021, which would have been her and Donny’s 28th anniversary.

Jessica was adamant that she didn’t want anyone to know about her accomplishment. No photos. No hoopla. No story in the newspaper. “But Mr. Graves convinced me that I shouldn’t be embarrassed about it,” she said. “He told me that others might see that they can do it, too.”

“I’m so thankful,” Jessica said later. “I only wish Donny could have been here to see it.”