Archive for Friday, June 25, 1993

LOCAL GED GRADUATES SET TO RECEIVE THEIR DIPLOMAS

June 25, 1993

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The next time Rennie Evans applies for a job, it won't be such a strain on her conscience.

That's because she won't have to fib when employers ask if she has a high school degree.

Evans is one of about 150 local people who earned their General Educational Development diploma during the past year. A ceremony for the graduates will be held at 7 p.m. Wednesday at West Junior High School, 2700 Harvard Road.

For Evans, 41, the accomplishment is a dream come true.

"I used to dream about having a high school diploma," Evans said. "I always dreamed about walking across the stage with a cap and gown."

Evans will get to do that Wednesday, and to top it off, she also has been chosen to address the other GED recipients.

Several obstacles prevented Evans from achieving her dream before now. Evans, who grew up in Texas, had her first child when she was 11. She had her second child when she was 15, and she dropped out of school when she was only in eighth grade.

Then, when she was about 25, Evans began drinking heavily to try to escape the painful memories of having been sexually abused as a child.

Evans came to Lawrence in January to stay at First Step House, which helps women who are attempting to end chemical dependencies. Evans said she has been alcohol-free for over six months and now is getting a "natural high" from having earned her GED.

Evans said it was Jeannie Chavez-Martinez, a social worker at First Step House, who first encouraged Evans to get her GED.

"I said, 'I really don't think I can pass. It's been 25 years since I've been in school,'" Evans said.

Nevertheless, Evans took a sample test of the social studies portion of the GED, and she scored 42 points -- just three points below the score needed to pass.

Evans then started going to the Adult Learning Center, 1919 Del. Run by the Lawrence school district, the center is designed to help people earn a GED or to help people improve their math and reading skills.

Evans took the five different parts of the test -- literature and arts, social studies, science, math and writing -- one at a time. She saved the most difficult subject for her, math, until last. She passed the math test on June 15 with seven more points than she needed.

"I shouted so hard!" Evans said.

The lack of a high school diploma didn't stop Evans from getting jobs. After she moved to the Wichita area in 1975, she worked as an assemblyperson for Beech Aircraft, as a bakery supervisor, and as a house-cleaning supervisor for a Marriott hotel.

"At the hotel they told me, 'If you just had a little bit more under your belt, you could have your own department,'" Evans said. "I can hardly wait. I'm going to write them. I'm going to send them a copy of my GED graduation invitation with my name on it."

While finding employment is one goal, Evans said a bigger goal is to continue her studies. She's been examining programs at four Kansas community colleges and hopes to start attending one in the fall.

"I was a blessed one to have so much support in Lawrence. I have had excellent people behind me," Evans said. "I want to give something back. I want to be a social worker."

Evans said she especially would like to work in rural areas and help abandoned children, chemical dependents, the disabled or senior citizens.

She said her two children are now ages 29 and 26 and have children of their own. She said she's glad to be able to serve as a role model for her grandchildren by having earned her high school degree.

But she recommends that they and others get their degrees the easy way.

"It's best to stay in the classroom and get it from the school," Evans said.

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