Dropping Out

Time Magazine's cover story this week focuses on our nation's high school drop-out problem. According to the article, about one-third of public high school students drop out. They interview a number of kids from Shelbyville High School and discuss Shelbyville's plan to keep kids in school.

I dropped out of high school when I was 16 and got my GED when I was 19. Like one of the girls in the story, I was encouraged by school administrators to leave. I was setup to fail on many levels. No one in my family graduated from high school. My mom and maternal grandmother got their GEDs in the late '70s. My dad told me that I was so smart that I would only need two years of high school. Apparently, he was right. I dropped out at the beginning of my junior year and started working full time.

I tried several times to return. I joined a local gay/lesbian youth group during the summer I turned 16. While the group was good for me in many ways, it did very little to encourage or help me stay in school. To the contrary, I was often told by older gays and lesbians how wonderful it was that I was so out. Yeah, being out is great for political activists, but it's not real practical for your average high schooler in the early '90s.

After working full time on and off for nearly three years, I decided to buckle down and take the GED exam. I remember going down to the IPS Ed Center downtown to take the exam. It was very underwhelming. Formulas were provided for all the math problems. How easy is that? Here's the formula, plug in these numbers. And the history and science questions were nothing more than history and science related reading comprehension tests.

A whole new world of opportunities opened up for me after getting my GED. I landed a job through a temp agency that started out $6.25 an hour. I was making $9 an hour within a year at the same job. Prior to getting my GED, I never made more than $5/hour.

Most of my cousins dropped out of high school. None ever got their GED, and they struggle immensely. At least, I think they struggle. They're mostly about having fun and shirking responsibility while asking me for money and favors. They especially enjoy that Marion County lockup releases everybody. I've mostly given up on them, and I've mostly stopped answering their requests. I would've wanted somebody to do those things for me when I needed them, but I was on my own with a few exceptions.


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