“It was a struggle to say the least,” said Cody Hill, a student speaker at last week’s West Georgia Technical College GED graduation ceremony. “Not only did I have my mind on my academics and getting ready to take these tests, but I was also trying to learn how to live my life sober.”
Hill, who dropped out of high school as a ninth-grader, lived what he called a “drug-filled lifestyle” from the ages of 13 through 19 years old. At age 19, he entered Recovery and Restoration Ministries, a transitional living home in Carrollton and started taking GED preparation classes at West Georgia Tech.
“There came a day when the directors of the house told me they couldn’t drive me to school anymore, so I would have to ride my bicycle to the classes,” Hill said. “It was the heat of the summer, so that wasn’t fun, but I persevered and did it anyway because I knew it would be worth it in the end. And it has been.”
Hill was one of more than 70 students from West Georgia Tech’s Adult Education Division who gathered at the college’s Thomas B. Murphy Campus in Waco to receive their GED diploma during a graduation ceremony last Thursday night.
Crystal Johnson was another one.
A high-school dropout at 16 years old and expecting her first child at age 17, Johnson tried several times to earn her GED.
“It was the same pattern over and over again for the next several years,” Johnson said. “I would start taking classes to get ready for the test, but then life got in the way.”
This time, though, something clicked.
“This was the perfect opportunity to try one more time, and there was no reason in the world why I shouldn’t be able to get it this time,” Johnson said during her address to the collected students. “The teachers I had gave me such incredible encouragement and pushed me to finish. I worked hard in class, and then I came home and worked even more. It took 12 weeks to obtain my GED, and it felt so great to finally say, ‘I passed.’ ”
Johnson said she’s learned through her experience that everyone can have a second chance at life – or a third chance, or a fourth chance.
“I always felt like I didn’t deserve a career because of the wrong choices I made when I was young, but I’ve learned this year that that isn’t true at all,” Johnson said.
The ceremony’s keynote speaker was Vicki Kaiser, who serves as the Executive Director of Oncology and Community Affairs at Piedmont Hospital in Newnan. Kaiser, a GED graduate as well, shared her story.
“I’m so honored to be a part of this group tonight,” Kaiser said. “I can relate to what these graduates have accomplished because I’ve been there before too. When I was growing up, my parents had rules and I hated them. I wanted to do what I wanted to do, and I followed my path right out of my parent’s house at the age of 17 and dropped out of school.”
Kaiser shared how she went from working at Popeye’s fast food restaurant to Piedmont, encouraging students to persevere and to not end their education with their GED.
“Your journey does not end tonight,” Kaiser said. “I think you’ll find that this is only the beginning.”
To find out more about how you could earn your GED after taking free GED prep courses at West Georgia Tech, visit www.westgatech.edu/AdultEd.