Learning Gets Better with Age Award Recipient
Robert “Rick” said that he was “haunted” for forty years by not having graduated high school. “I have had a lot of jobs and whenever they asked me if I had a High School Diploma or GED, I always checked “yes.” No one ever asked to see my diploma, and I was constantly waiting for the ball to drop. I was tired of living a lie.”
Rick joined the Army before finishing high school and served for 3 years. He has an “Honorable Discharge with Other Conditions” because he started abusing alcohol while serving. Rick said his life post-Army was “all over the place” due to his alcohol and eventual drug abuse. He even served some jail time because his addiction kept him from being able to focus. “Life didn’t mean much to me then,” Rick said.
At age 57, for the first time ever, Rick confided to a friend that he didn’t have his HS Diploma or GED and later that night, he Google searched programs. The next day he enrolled. It took him two (2) years to get his diploma from the National External Diploma Program. During the two (2) years, Rick attended classes one day per week while training at his SCSEP community service assignment the other four days. It’s been more than four years now since Rick obtained his equivalency diploma.
For his graduation day, Rick was selected to give the commencement speech. His sister and son were present, and he cried. “Graduating and the high I felt that night, that was better than any drug I ever experienced. It was something I needed to achieve, and when I did, it felt so awesome.”
Rick is still an active participant in the Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP). As for what’s next for Rick after SCSEP, he would like an unsubsidized job but has concerns because of a disability. Rick is currently considering some undergraduate college art classes because art is his passion. He is going to a meeting in the next few weeks sponsored by the VA to learn more about VA college benefits.
What does Rick want others to know? “Follow your dreams; it’s never too late, and don’t give up.”