IMG_0004 (2)On a cool autumn day a mother, father and teenage son walked into the Paxen office at the Georgia Department of Labor in Valdosta. The parents showed defeat, and Andrew showed ambivalence as he was suspended from his alternative school and was almost at the point of a forced withdrawal. After a quick assessment by the program manager, it was obvious that he was not ready for our services, as he still battled with the decision to stay at his current school or obtain his GED®, even though his increasing suspensions and little progress in earning class credits may have lead him to Adult Education services regardless.

The program manager turned to Andrew and began to explain his options. Andrew learned that he has three paths to success; obtain a High School Degree, a GED® or focus on obtaining a job. The family weighted the pros and cons of each, wrote it out, and left with the program manager’s last words, “Now you have all the options, good or bad. But Andrew, your mom or your dad can not make this decision for you, as much as they would like too. This decision to succeed is only in your hands and when you are ready, I will be here waiting for you.”

The next month, Andrew returned to Paxen, by himself, and said “I am ready.” Andrew enrolled in WIA (Workforce Investment Act) services with a goal to achieve his GED®, obtain part-time employment and enroll in college. Paxen staff worked with Andrew to complete his education, career and employment plans. For the next six months Andrew worked towards meeting his goals. He struggled with attending classes as proscribed in his plan, but staff continually encouraged him. He struggled with the pressure of a 17-year-old being placed in a non-traditional educational environment, but staff worked to adapt to his needs and build his confidence. He battled the need to find employment verses his desire to earn a diploma, but staff provided counseling and work readiness training to better prepare him for his job search.

Despite the many barriers to education and employment and struggles along the way, Andrew, a 17-year-old high school dropout earned his General Education Diploma within eight months of entering the program. Andrews’ parents no longer had a look of defeat, and Andrew’s ambivalence was replaced with confidence and the realization that hard work, dedication and commitment is what leads to success.

Shortly after, his next success was obtaining his first job at Wendy’s. He currently works part-time, but staff continually encouraged him to pursue education, and once again went over with him the pros and cons of each decision. In June, Andrew exited from our services for successfully obtaining his diploma and employment, but in July Andrew came into our office and once again said “I’m ready.” All Paxen staff sat with Andrew and assisted him completing his FASFA, college application and scheduling his college entrance test.

A few weeks later, Andrew contacted us and said, “Thank you all for all that you all have done for me. I appreciate the support I could not have done this without you all. I start classes at South Georgia State College on August 17th.” Paxen staff erupted into a cheer of congratulations.