Persistence is the key to earning GED, a Lawrence woman discovers.
Connie Ray is the kind of parent school teachers love.
She makes sure her 10-year-old son, Christopher, spends at least 15 minutes a day reading at home. She takes Christopher and his two younger sisters to the library regularly.
And last month, Ray took a major step in serving as a role model for her children: She earned her GED.
"It's the best thing I could have done for myself and my children," she said.
Ray is one of about 150 local people who earned General Educational Development diplomas during the past year. A ceremony for the graduates will be at 7 p.m. Tuesday at West Junior High School, 2700 Harvard.
Ray, 28, dropped out of Lawrence High School as a junior when she was pregnant with Christopher. She began studying for the GED 11 years ago, albeit halfheartedly.
"I didn't feel confident about myself," Ray said. "And raising three children, things were always getting in the way."
Ray had an easier time persuading her mother to earn a GED. Her mother reached the goal in a year's time.
Then this March, Ray finally got serious. She set May 15 as her deadline for earning her GED. She fulfilled her dream on May 18.
"It was pretty easy once I finally made up my mind to do it," she said.
The GED includes tests in five area: writing skills, social studies, science, interpreting literature and the arts, and math.
Ray had to earn a minimum of 35 points on each test and an overall score of at least 225. She was just 4 points shy of 225, but she took the social studies test again and boosted her score by 11 points.
"My 3-year-old daughter told me she was really proud of me, and that made me feel good," she said.
Ray now is seeking a Pell Grant and hopes to attend Johnson County Community College in the fall. She would like to become a paralegal.
"Law fascinates me," she said.
Ray said she is grateful to her mother for providing child care and for driving her to the Lawrence school district's Adult Learning Center, 1919 Del.
She said her gratitude to the learning center staff almost goes without saying.
"They really encourage you, and they really help you a lot," Ray said. "I wasn't used to a teacher coming and sitting down beside me.
"They take the extra time to work with you one-on-one, and that's really great."
Ray said she'll continue to hone her reading and writing skills at the learning center in preparation for her fall semester at college.
The learning center will be closed next week. But starting July 5, the center will be open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Monday through Thursday and from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday and Thursday.