Kenneth Baker, 49, passed the writing portion of the General Education Development (GED) Test—the last section he needed—in December after getting tutoring at the Sacramento Public Library. On January 1, the GED changed over to a new computerized format, and any sections people had already passed no longer counted. We recently sat down with Kenneth and his tutor, Peggy Watral.
So you never finished high school?
Kenneth Baker: I dropped out in the 10th grade to help my mom. She was a single parent for me and my brother. Coming from the streets of Miami, school was the last thing on my mind. I’m a construction worker.
So you’d already passed everything but the writing section?
KB: I would have thought the writing would be easier than the math and science, but they failed me. I just knew that this time I had to do it or I had to go back and do the whole test over. Everybody was trying to get into a test in time. I got lucky and I got a spot.
Peggy got me through. When I first came in, there was no way I could write an essay. Before, it was people saying it was easy but not showing me how to do it.
She broke it down for me. Through all the years, all I learned was there are five parts, your beginning, three body paragraphs and a conclusion. I just didn’t know how to get started. Once I got the format broken down, now I see it’s easy as they say it is. All through the Thanksgiving holidays, I just took the time and wrote different essays, over and over.
It’s just something I wanted to do. I’ve never been to a prom. I didn’t get to graduate. I wanted my mom to see me graduate, but she passed away about three years ago. It’s tough stuffing 12 years (of school) into a couple years.
Peggy Watral: I was waiting in line to go to a movie when I got the call from Kenneth (that he’d passed). I was weeping, I was just so excited. It had to be the best present I got this year. (To Kenneth) What do you plan to do now?
KB: Get my doctorate (laughs)! I’m just glad I got it out of the way. I’m proud of myself. I’m happy. (To Peggy) You’re just a blessing from God.