Students’ hard work pays off

By JENELLE JOHNSON
Family Living Editor

Register/Jenelle Johnson
Candidates for general education development diplomas at Allen County Community College are from left, Amanda Korhn, Gary Riley, Rachel Shay and Grace Thompson.

Gary Riley dropped out of high school to get a job and help his family.
Amanda Korhn was kicked out of high school but wanted to complete her education.
Grace Thompson opted for marriage instead of finishing high school.
Rachel Shay quit school when she became pregnant her senior year.
The reasons may all be different why Allen County Community College non-traditional students never finished high school, but their goal is the same — they have all returned to school to compete requirements for a high school equivalency diploma.

RILEY DECIDED to complete requirements for his General Education Development diploma to fulfill a promise he had made to his mother.
“I always told my mom that I would get my high school diploma. I know that she would be proud. I just wish she was here to see me when I walk across that stage when I graduate,” Riley said.
Riley, 49, and his wife, Brenda, have raised three sons who are all high school graduates — one also completed college. They have six grandchildren; four will watch their grandfather receive his GED diploma.
Growing up in Louisville, Ky., Riley said his parents struggled to pay bills and provide a good life for their children.
Riley’s decision to quit school to help his family financially was solidified one day in gym class.
His teacher made fun of him because his parents couldn’t afford trendy clothes. His gym shoes were old and torn and when asked by the teacher if he didn’t have any other shoes, Riley said, “No sir, I don’t. My parents can’t afford to buy me new shoes.”
The teacher responded with, “Could you participate in socks, or can’t your mother afford socks either?”
“I walked out of the school that day and never went back,” Riley said.
The family eventually moved to Wichita because of his mother’s failing health.
Riley is the manager of a restaurant at Beto Junction, located at I-35 and U.S. 75 in northern Coffey County. He and his family live in Burlington. He was able to take GED classes through an ACCC outreach program in New Strawn. He passed his test for a GED at the Burlingame campus.
Riley will represent his class as the student speaker at the graduation ceremony. He said he plans to encourage anyone who has not completed their high school education to consider ACCC’s GED program.
“I was made to feel welcome by the staff and never felt out of place in the classes. My grades were good enough that I have received a scholarship which I would like to use it to learn a foreign language,” he said.

KORHN SPENT a number of years feeling as through she wasn’t worthy of an education.
“I had been kicked out of school and was told by everyone what a loser I was,” she said.
Korhn, 19, is originally from Ohio and after being separated from her mother was sent to Kansas to live with her grandparents in Augusta. The living situation didn’t work out and she was sent to live with a foster family in LaHarpe.
She said she had always wanted to get her GED and decided to try the program at Allen County.
“Everyone here at the college has encouraged me and given me a sense of self-worth, especially Karen Culver, an adult education istructor, who is awesome,” Korhn said.
Korhn plans to take some classes this summer at ACCC and return to Ohio in the fall, where she hopes to continue her education.

THOMPSON, 53, was a high school senior in her hometown of Chicago when she me Wayman Thompson, who was visiting the windy city with his sister.
The two met at a church function, fell in love, married and moved to his hometown of Kincaid.
“You talk about culture shock. I had lived in Chicago all of my life and wasn’t quite prepared for a rural Kansas community,” she said.
High school isn’t a pleasant memory for Thompson, who grew up in an era when religious beliefs were to be left outside of the schoolhouse.
“I always took my Bible with me to school, which my teachers found offensive. They would make me move my desk into the hall if I refused to leave my Bible at home. I didn’t learn much in the hall by myself so I decided when I met Wayman to quit school and get married,” she said.
Thompson had thought throughout the years about returning to school to compete her GED but procrastinated 32 years.
“I would like to further my education so I can get a job working with children, perhaps as an aide or as a cook in a school,” she said.
Thompson said she enjoys her employment with Wal-Mart but would like more time to spend with her husband. If she could work for the schools, they would be able to spend summers together.
Math was by far Thompson’s most difficult subject when she began classes for her GED. After being out of school more than 30 years it took her a while to grasp the concepts, Thompson said.
“I would encourage anyone who doesn’t have a high school diploma to come out to Allen County. The instructors and staff are wonderful,” she said.
Thompson has four children and five grandchildren.

SHAY, 18, LEFT high school because she didn’t feel her teachers in Pleasanton were supportive of her after she became pregnant her senior year.
“I first blamed myself when I left school. I thought the stress of being pregnant was overshadowing my school work, but then I realized my teachers just didn’t put out any effort to help me continue with my classes,” Shay said.
She moved to Iola and began classes at Crossroads Learning Center, but didn’t find the classes at the school filled her needs as a young, working pregnant teenager.
After being pressured to continue her education by her friends, she called Allen County and talked with Culver, who helped Shay work out a study schedule that still allowed her to work.
“I was working at McDonald’s when I began my GED classes and now I work at Wal-Mart,” she said.
Shay’s baby is due May 22 and she said, “I have worked hard for my diploma, I hope my baby boy waits until after graduation to be born.”
Shay plans to continue her education, probably through Internet classes. She would like to be a kindergarten teacher.

SIXTY-FOUR STUDENTS will be recognized with GED diplomas at the May 11 commencement exercises. Forty-six of the graduates will be awarded scholarships to continue their education at either Allen County or another community college.
Kansas Sen. Derek Schmidt will give the commencement address at 7:30 p.m. in ACCC’s gymnasium.
Graduates and their guests will be honored at a reception immediately following commencement in the lobby.