It’s never too late. Just ask Lindsay Mendoza.

Life and other responsibilities took her on a different path her senior year of high school. But the 30-year-old didn’t give up. Last month she earned her high school diploma 12 years after her projected graduation date. She received the coveted piece of paper on Thursday during a special ceremony at Cardwell Career Preparatory Center.

“Lindsay exemplifies that learning is a lifelong journey, where we learn from our experiences, learn from others, learn from our surroundings and keep going,” says Christopher Johnson, lead counselor at Cardwell. “Earning her diploma will lead to greater financial opportunities, but her grit, determination and ‘never give up’ attitude are what make us successful in life. She is what Cardwell is all about – building hope, celebrating success and producing lifelong learners.”

After being held back her senior year at a neighboring district, Mendoza transferred to Cardwell in the fall of 2009 to repeat it.

“That year, I moved in with my then boyfriend, now fiance, and I was expecting my oldest,” she says.

While at Cardwell, Mendoza completed all of the required courses and passed all portions of the state standardized test needed to graduate – then the TAKS – except the biology portion. 

“It was the only thing holding me back,” she says. “Then I had my daughter, and once I had my daughter, it was hard for me to go back to school. My focus became my daughter, and I never went back and tried finishing.”

Seven years ago, she attempted to retake the TAKS but hit a couple of walls logistically. 

“I just let it go again,” she says. “But I just kept thinking, ‘I’m so close to it. I just need to pass the biology exam. I can do this.’”

So she called Cardwell again. This time, she was connected with Mr. Johnson. He explained how the TAKS test had been phased out, so she would be taking the State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness (STAAR) biology end-of-course (EOC) exam and helped her prepare.

“He has helped me so much,” says Mendoza. “He helped me get the exam scheduled and just made sure that I didn’t give up.”

For a month, Mendoza focused on studying – watching YouTube videos and reviewing a mock test her fiance, Amador Soto, printed for her. She took the EOC in early December, and a month later, she received word she had passed. 

“I’m happy that I finally did it,” she says. “I did this for my kids. If it weren’t for them, I don’t think I would have had the motivation. They pushed me to keep pushing.”

What has been her focus, became her motivation – her daughters: Mia Soto, 11; Camila Soto, 7; and Audriana Soto, 6. Now with her high school diploma in hand, Mendoza plans to apply to cosmetology school, in large part to create a better future for them. 

“This has opened all kinds of opportunities,” she says. “I’m so excited.”