While in the army, an Education Center counselor taught me that I could be more than just a high school Dropout. It's because of her that I have a Master's Degree now.
When I joined the army in 1986, you didn’t need to have a high school diploma. You didn’t even need a GED. And when my enlistment began that same year, I was a high-school dropout.
When I finally made it to my permanent duty station at Fort Hood, Texas, the first thing my Platoon Sergeant told me was that I needed to go to the Education Center to get my GED. That did not excite me.
I dropped out of high school after my sophomore year and one of the first things I did was look into getting my GED. They wanted me to go to classes and study and take sample tests. If I wanted to do all of that, I would have just stayed in school. That ended the pursuit of my GED.
But once I was in the army, it wasn’t a choice. It was an order. So I went to the Education Center to see what they could do for me. Based on previous experience, I didn’t have high hopes. I was assigned to a counselor and I wish I could remember her name, because she did so much for me. It wasn’t what she did, or her attitude that made so much of a difference; it was what she told me.
When I sat down in the chair at her desk, the first thing she did was look at my ASVAB scores. ASVAB is the battery of tests you take to get into military service. She told me that my scores were pretty good and she advised me to just go take the GED tests. She didn’t tell me to go to classes. She didn’t tell me to go take sample tests. She signed me up for the real GED tests. I did what she told me.
And I passed. In fact, I scored in the top three percent for the GED tests. When my counselor saw my results, she promptly told me about CLEP tests. She said that with CLEP tests I could test out college courses and that CLEP tests didn’t affect my GPA (they were pass/fail). She also told me that I had to convert them to an actual college transcript within seven years or they would expire.
So I started taking CLEP tests. In short order, I had thirty semester hours in CLEP tests. That meant that I’d tested out of my first year of college.
But life got in the way and I stopped taking CLEP tests for awhile. Still, even as I was doing everything but working toward my education or degree, I still knew that I was getting closer to that seven-year deadline and it continued to nag at me. I knew that if I didn’t use those thirty hours, the tests would become worthless.
And during my last six months in the army, I began using the Education Center again. I didn’t get the same counselor. It wasn’t even the same Ed Center, but by then, I knew what I had to do. I found a counselor who was willing to work with me and I began taking CLEP tests again. And I passed them, at least most of them. And the more I passed, the more she let me take.
As a civilian, each CLEP test would cost me about $100. It’s a fair price if you pass, but it’s always a gamble that you might fail. In the army, CLEP tests are free, but they’re still a gamble. If you don’t pass enough of them, the counselors won’t let you take them anymore.
Fortunately, I passed far more than I failed. As I recall, I failed five of them, and all by a very close margin. By the time I was done and sending off my CLEP scores to be evaluated by a college, I had a total of 127 semester hours in CLEP tests. Considering that thirty hours is a full year of college, that was four years plus. And only the first five assessments are worth six semester hours; the rest are worth three. If you do the math, that’s a lot of CLEP tests.
Those CLEP tests put me over on my requirements and I was able to achieve a bachelor’s degree from Excelsior’s College. That was in 1996. In 2006, I went on to complete my master’s degree through The University of Phoenix, online in adult education, something I’d become quite passionate about.
You see, the reason I dropped out of high school in the first place was because I wasn’t challenged. I didn’t drop out because I was dumb. I didn’t drop out because I couldn’t do it. I dropped out because I was bored. I was tired of the system. And that was why I chose a degree in education, so that I could do my part to ensure that others like me had an opportunity to succeed. I wanted to be the catalyst, the reason others went on to become something greater than they thought they could become.
Had it not been for an Ed Center counselor, whose name I can’t even remember, I might still be nothing more than a high-school dropout. But she took the time to look at my test scores and see that I was something more. She said the words. She saw my potential. She planted the seed and put my feet on the path. She inspired me! And to her, and everyone like her, I say thank you.