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July 7, 2014 |

2013 LaGuardia ASAP Leadership Team Member

Before you is a man who just a mere two years ago was diploma-less and dying a slow death at a dead-end job.  I was the guy who was always smarter than his friends, co-workers, and supervisors.  Unfortunately, I was also the guy who people always wondered, “Why the heck is he still working THERE?!”  Well, after hearing that for the GAZILLIONTH time, I figured I’d do something about it!


At first, I was very reluctant to join a GED program.  The last ones I had tried left me disillusioned and I always told myself that I was intelligent enough to buy the book and do it on my own.  Unfortunately, that is not how I am built and have to be in a school environment to actually accomplish anything of an academic nature.  To do this I had to confront one of my biggest fears, the fear of failure.  Throughout my high school years I was an honor roll student and as my senior year approached, life took an unexpected turn as I received the news that I was to be a father.  Assuming the responsibility of fatherhood would be a full-time job and I could not do both that and school. Or so I thought.  If only I’d had the courage back then.  Each time I was presented with the opportunity to get my diploma, I was resigned to my fate and believed that I didn’t need one.  I had already gained prestige in my current job and had eclipsed anything that my father had accomplished by my age, so I was satisfied.  That satisfaction turned into complacency and I found myself stuck in a dead-end job like my father was so many years before.


The turning point in my life was when one evening my son, displaying true teenage angst, told me that he didn’t have to go to college because HIS father didn’t go to school and he was perfectly FINE!  At this point I knew I had no other alternative but to throw caution to the wind and return to school.  My son could not be resigned to my fate and I would set an example that he could follow.  I logged on to the LaGuardia Community College website, applied, and before I knew it I was registered as a student in the GED Bridge program.


At first, the work was unfamiliar and a little bit intimidating.  I hadn’t been in an official classroom in two decades.  Three different presidents had come and gone since I last put on my student cap and the work seemed daunting.  The new emphasis on mathematics and computers made me feel like I had to be an engineer in a subject that was never my strong suit.  So I did what came instinctively to me.  I applied myself.  I asked questions when I was confused.  I remained after hours when a topic eluded me and made sure I at least had a grasp of it before I left campus.  I reached out to faculty and fellow students for assistance.  It became my personal obsession to do my best in every subject in the GED curriculum and it was not only reflected in my work but in relationships that I’ve maintained with the staff and students at the GED Bridge program to this very day.


As I approached the finish line in my race to obtain my GED, I found myself at a crossroads.  “OK.  You’re going to do it.  You have slayed the dragon that was passing the GED exam.  Now what?!  Nice cushy City job here I come.”  Not if FATE had anything to do with it! Tyleah Castillo of ASAP came one fine spring day to give a presentation to our happy group of potential high school graduates.  She spoke eloquently of all the benefits ASAP offered and I sat up and took notice.  Well, not really.  I heard, “Blah blah blah METROCARD blah blah blah FREE BOOKS blah blah BOOK VOUCHER.”  Now at this point, I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to take on school.  The more I listened, the more I realized that the writing was on the wall and went for it.  I haven’t looked back ever since.  With the advisement and block courses, I was guaranteed not to become just another face in the crowd.  Tyleah and the rest of the ASAP staff made it their business to get to know me and my strengths and weaknesses (of which I have none!).  My ASAP brethren kept me from falling through the cracks and I made sure to return the favor whenever possible.  There have been times when yes, I have been weary and just plain beat but to see my son’s newfound enthusiasm in all things pertaining to school, and just the way he tells me how proud of me he is, makes all the work worth it.  I started from the BOTTOM but now I’m HERE!