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May 02 2023

Student Spotlight: Lance

Student Spotlight

Lance Shepherd

Lance’s essay won 1st place in IAACE’s 2023 student essay contest.

It’s never too late to complete your high school diploma and enter higher education. I’m a native of the Hoosier state, raised in California. I was born a month before John F. Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas, Texas, that November. Growing up, I can’t remember when I didn’t have a horse. We lived on the Old Rolling Ridge Ranch, twenty-seven acres of rolling hills in the middle of southern California. The very last of the undeveloped land, in a sea of homes, at night, the city lights twinkled like so many stars in the sky from our hillside home.

I lived with my family on the ranch. I had chores to do before and after school. As I grew, so did my duties—each year, another candle. Then came my sixteenth birthday, complete with a cake, candles, and a song. I’m sure there was more, but the only other thing I remember is my father setting me down for “the talk.” No, it wasn’t about the “birds and the bees,” which greatly relieved me!

He simply asked, “Do you know how to read, write, add, and subtract?” “Yes,” I replied.

“Can you write a check and balance a checkbook?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied.

“Then you don’t have to go to school anymore,” he answered. “Yes, oh, yes!” I replied.

The very next day, my father enrolled me in a new school he affectionately called “the school of hard knocks.” Soon I began working my fingers to the bone, and the ranch pay was less than nothing. As I spent each day at the ranch mucking stalls and bathing horses, my classmates went on to graduate. Soon the developer’s bulldozers came knocking, and the ranch was sold to progress. Our heavenly hillside home was to be no more; we had to move. You see, we only worked there. My father didn’t own the ranch. He graduated from the same school I was going to now—the school of hard knocks. As we were looking for a new place to live, my classmates were looking at which college to go to. As my classmates moved into their dorm rooms, we moved into the trailer park on the wrong side of the tracks. Soon I settled into one dead-end job after another. My classmates went on to graduate from college. I faithfully continued to attend my school of hard knocks. That was a lifetime ago when I heard those words from my father’s mouth that set me on a hard path. Hard work and determination over time yielded a measure of success for myself and my family.

The years sneak up on you, and soon I found myself standing at my son’s high school graduation. Deep down, I’ve always regretted not finishing my high school diploma. I’ve often wondered how my life would be different if I had gone to college. So, needless to say, I was pleased to see my son graduate from a real school. And with my father long gone and my mother standing by my side, my son announced his intention to attend college and go for a degree.

At that moment, I proclaimed that if and when he graduated with a degree, I would return to school and get my high school diploma. My son went on to earn two master’s degrees in English Literature and English Composition. Soon he was offered a position at the University of Redlands, teaching an English class. The time had come for me to get serious about fulfilling my promise of completing my high school equivalency.

One day I was at the library and inquired about HSE classes. That’s when I learned about the Literacy Alliance and enrolled in classes. The classes offer individual instruction. After testing, the only area I really needed to focus on was math, and my math skills are improving daily. Understanding the rules of math has helped me turn scientific notation from what once looked like some Egyptian hieroglyphics to something that actually makes sense.

I received a mailer the other day from Purdue University Fort Wayne. Within the pages were all sorts of fun workshops and classes. Now, I can dream because of this opportunity through the Literacy Alliance. It all starts with the golden entry ticket—a high school diploma. This is the key to the college door. A door of endless possibilities!

Lance achieved his goal and passed the HSE exam in March of 2023. We can’t wait to see what is accomplishes next!

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