Flash forward and at 32 years old, Armstrong Gonzalez found herself in Orange County trying to enroll at Cal State Fullerton. But the counselor told her she first needed to finish high school. An even greater problem was that she only had a sixth-grade education.
"Essentially, I started the sixth grade with a personal tutor, then worked my way up from there. I was 33 years old at the time," said Armstrong Gonzalez, whose story of always having been on the move, from Central to South America to Europe, at times bordered on being homeless.
Armstrong Gonzalez, with blonde hair and green eyes and freckles, said she, her father and sister would often live in two to three countries every three to six months, sometimes waking up in parks when they couldn't afford a place to live.
The result was Armstrong Gonazalez and her sister never received an education.
"I'm the first one to ever graduate from high school in my entire family," she said, adding that all her immediate family members are now dead.
Her father died in October 1999 and her sister was murdered in the streets of Miami, a sad incident that sent her to California from Florida to receive help under a special program. She called it a godsend.
Now a Huntington Beach resident and with a high-school diploma in hand, she plans to attend Orange Coast College in the fall, her eyes on a potential degree in business administration.
Stories like that of Armstrong Gonzalez run the gamut in the district's adult education, said Lenora Mitchell, the administrative assistant who performed a beautiful rendition of the national anthem at the ceremony.