My name is Theresa; I have a story to tell. I was born in Ohio, and when a young child, my family moved to Florida. To call my family dysfunctional would be an understatement. My father was an alcoholic and an abuser. My mother lived in fear of him and would never stand up to him. My father targeted my mother and brother for his abuse until I was around twelve years old. At that time, he began to abuse me sexually. I know my mother knew what was happening, but out of fear of my father, turned a blind eye to it.
The abuse at home worsened. I’m sure my father had told his brother what he was doing because my Uncle tried to have his way with me too. Under the pressure, I began to rebel. I became involved with drugs. You name the drug – I’ve done it. I even started selling drugs. I was selling drugs at school right under the teacher’s nose. I just didn’t care. I felt trapped and was striking out.
At fourteen, seeking escape, I left home and school and moved in with my twenty year old boyfriend. I did not find the escape I had hoped for. All I did was exchange one abusive relationship for another. My boyfriend was just as abusive as my father had been. On top of everything, he had to control every aspect of my life. I couldn’t go anywhere or have any friends. In the end, he got a sixteen year old girl pregnant. The girl’s parents invited him to a shotgun wedding. That was the end of that relationship.
Suddenly, I found myself homeless. Having nowhere else to go, I returned to my parent’s house. When I was seventeen, I decided to go for my GED. I took the classes and was looking forward to taking the tests, but being a minor, I had to take a pretest. I failed a couple of the pretests and just gave up as a result. During the classes, I met a man, and we had a brief relationship. After he had left I discovered I was pregnant. I gave birth to a special needs child and raised him on my own for four years before telling his father that we had a son. After giving him the news, we were married. We’ve been together ever since.
Over the years I became caught up in life. The need to pay bills and having a special needs child kept me busy. I never gave any thought to my own education. I worked at different fast food places. I did manage to work my way up to assistant manager. It’s a nice title, but it still meant a lot of hard work for low pay. Around twenty years after my first attempt at earning my GED; I found myself doing work for the Floyd County Board of Education. I was working in the Cafeteria and helping out the janitor. It was here I met Tina and Nancy. They were working with the GED Program. After a lot of talking about it, I made the decision to sign up for the program.
The GED program was wonderful. The classes covered everything I needed to know to pass the test. The people in the class with me were great too. We became almost like family, encouraging and helping each other to do our best. We even planned a trip together after the class was over. Tina was a great help. She gave us magazines and poster board then told us to make a collage of our goals. I pasted on a picture of a diploma, money, a new car, a new house, and as a joke, a better looking husband. I really liked this; it helped me focus on just what I wanted in life. We have put our son in the program, but he has trouble focusing and hasn’t made it yet. He will, it will just take time. I passed all my tests and earned my GED.
This was the best thing I have ever done for myself. My life did a complete turnaround after getting my GED. I first went to work as a teacher’s assistant. I loved this job. It was both rewarding and fun, but it didn’t pay enough. Later I went to work for a local textile company working in the commercial division of customer service. Then, for a time I worked in another department. When the recession hit, the company announced they were closing that department and laying off the workers. The company wanted to keep me and offered me a position back in customer service. I credit the GED program for giving me the confidence and the skills that made me an asset to my employer.
I can’t say enough about what this program has done for me. If not for the GED program I would still be working dead end jobs. Today I have a good job and a good shot at advancement. Out of the goals we set out in class, I have my diploma, my new car, a good job, a new house, and I never did get the new husband, but there’s still time. If there is anyone out there in a similar position to the one I was in and is thinking about enrolling in the program, my advice is “Do it!” You will never regret it and it could point you in directions you never thought possible.
-As told to John Lysle, Student Writer
This story originally appeared in Facing Hope, a publication of The Facing Project that was organized by Georgia Highlands College, Georgia Northwestern Technical College, and Berry College in Rome, Georgia.