Thirty years later Bratton earns his GED at Trindad State
Valley Campus / March 25, 2015
“I was a little rebellious. Of course, when you’re young you know everything," said Troy Bratton about dropping out of high school in the mid-1980s. Thirty years later he’s back.
Bratton was born and raised in Monte Vista but wanting to experience life elsewhere, he left the Valley after dropping out to go on a road trip and was gone for 20 years. He met his wife, had two kids and ran his own power washing business in California. He didn’t need a diploma then, but life is different now.
Because seasonal work often prevents those who farm from taking classes during the day, this night class fit their irregular schedules.
After getting a divorce, he moved back to the Valley, found a job with an electrical company, and reconnected with his teenage sweetheart, the first girl he ever kissed. Several years after they were married, he began having trouble with his neck. A vertebra was out of place and would require extensive surgery using metal plates and screws to fuse three vertebrae together. “I beat myself up when I was younger,” said Bratton, “riding dirt bikes and wrecking a lot. That could have been the beginning of my neck problems.” After recovering, he returned to work, but slipped and fell a year ago, reinjuring his neck. He now lives with constant pain.
Knowing he needed to retrain he gathered the courage to take his General Education Development (GED) tests. After a funding scare last year, the Trinidad State GED Program is going strong.
Bratton started classes last September and only one month later he passed the exams for three of the areas of study: science, social studies, and reading and language arts. “He has great comprehension skills,” said GED Director Anna Mae Rael-Lindsay. “Reading is not a problem for him.”
“Social studies was a little hard,” said Bratton. “I thought the exam would be more geographical, but it was a lot about politics and government. It was my worst case scenario but I passed it.” Because he doesn’t know how to type, using his two middle fingers, he had to use the “hunt and peck” method. The timed exams were stressful and difficult, especially the essay questions.
Business has changed for those seeking the equivalent of a high school degree. Since January 2014 the requirements are much more stringent than before and the books and the testing are harder. For Bratton, who doesn’t use a computer, testing on one was challenging.
Math was another story for Bratton who never took algebra in high school. “Math was hard,” said Bratton. We studied fractions, decimals and even geometry. Bratton’s own issues of anxiety, pain, and lack of computer skills increased his stress level and complicated the testing. Even after taking pretests and passing them above the required score (150), it would take three attempts before he finally passed the math exam. Bratton said, “I think Gary Petty, who teaches math, must have been thinking, ‘Come on now. How many times have we been over this?’” It was especially frustrating when he scored 149, just one point short of passing.
“This program is great,” said Bratton. “Without it I wouldn’t have gotten my GED. I couldn’t have done it without these people. I not only didn’t want to let myself down, but I didn’t want to let them down either. I’d like to be a counselor,” he continued. “There’s a lot of problems with drugs here in the Valley and I want to help. Depending on my body and how I feel, I’d like to start college in the fall, but because of my health, my life’s up in the air!”
The Colorado Adult Education Professional Association (CAEPA) is working to get approval on two other high school equivalency tests that are being used successfully for GED testing in 14 other states, TASC (Test Accessing Secondary Completion) and HISET (High School Equivalency Test). “Right now it costs us $6 for every official practice test,” said Lindsay. Nationwide students are passing those but are not passing the exams. Historically, I have 20-25 GED graduates. So far this year, I have five that have completed and I will be really lucky to have 10 for graduation in June. Even the Department of Corrections which has far more graduates than any other entity in Colorado is graduating hundreds less than usual.”
Before studying for his GED, Bratton asked himself, ‘Can I do this at my age? This is an unfamiliar environment. I’m used to working outside.’ But he is determined to further his education and change careers at the age of 49, despite his physical constraints. “I’ve had lots of pain in my life, but this is the worst. I can’t use my body to work anymore. I have to use my head. If they (the GED team) hadn’t been here,” said Bratton, “I wouldn’t be where I am now – ready to move on to college.”