Making a Difference:
KET's GED Preparation Program
I believe KET sowed a seed in my life by giving me those books. Because KET believed, and sowed a seed, now I've got a GED. And that's going to help me sow seeds in other people's lives and that's going to bring forth fruit.
Ten years ago, John Bates' life was in turmoil. Though once an honor student and spelling-bee champ, he started smoking pot as young as 12. He moved on to Oxycontin and even selling marijuana. He lost interest in his studies, slept through his classes, and, though he'd been a promising football player at Pulaski County High School, he and three others were expelled when they were found with drugs in school.
Finally, a high-school dropout in juvenile detention, he was told he was so far behind that he'd never get his high-school diploma. Then his 17-year-old girlfriend, Stacey, now his wife, became pregnant with their first child.
A teenager himself, John knew he needed to support his new family, so he quit school for good in the 10th grade. He acquired a fake high school diploma, got a grueling job at a sawmill, and worked back-breaking hours lifting heavy logs, which left him in pain much of the time.
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But John's story has a happy ending, due in no small part to his own dedication, faith in God—and the help of KET's GED preparation program, which gave him a second chance to get his education and set him on the path of honesty and integrity.
"I tried to cheat and manipulate," recalled John from the classroom at Somerset Community and Technical College, where he's enrolled in a program to obtain his commercial driver's license, which he hopes will lead to a local truck-driving job. "I ordered a GED from a home study/career place that was fake. I got a good job with it—but I didn't do it in the right way. I didn't do it with truth."
John's life working at the sawmill and partying 'til all hours took a toll on his marriage. The couple decided to divorce. But about this time, a co-worker invited John to church.
"I ended up going to church with him and I got saved," John said. He prayed for a turnaround—and the paperwork that would have granted his divorce from Stacey was delayed. "I prayed about it, and I was trying to live a better life," John recalled.
The couple reunited, and John took up the ministry, serving as pastor of a church for two years. He's now enrolled in Cathedral Bible College and hopes to add evangelist to his list of professions—which also includes mowing 12 yards each week to make ends meet.
Along the way, John made an attempt to get a legitimate GED credential—but his first contact with KET several years ago was a false start. Instead of taking the test himself, he asked Stacey to take the pre-test KET offers to help students determine the subjects they most need to study.
Then, last year he came completely clean, calling KET back and speaking to Shelia Templeman. "I wanted to be honest," he said. "Shelia was very nice and respectful to me and didn't look at my past and say, 'Well, he doesn't deserve it now.' She was very understanding."
John set up shop in his garage, studying three hours a night after working as a day counselor with Sunshine Children's Services, a state-accredited residential facility for troubled youth. When he got stuck, he asked for help from his wife—who got her own GED credential in 2000—or turned to Shelia Templeman at KET for assistance.
John sat for the GED tests—and passed in January 2010.
He tells the boys at Sunshine Services that education is important. He tells them his life story, about dropping out, about becoming honest, about relying on his faith for strength. And he credits KET with helping lead him to where he is today.
"I believe KET sowed a seed in my life by giving me those books," he said. "Because KET believed, and sowed a seed, now I've got a GED. And that's going to help me sow seeds in other people's lives and that's going to bring forth fruit."
John talks about his love for the state and how he feels attaining an education is possible for anyone willing to work hard.
"As long as KET can help people with their education, that's going to bring forth fruit in the state of Kentucky," he said. "I think Kentucky needs more fruit. And the way that'll happen is by getting people their education—giving them the tools they need to be educated. KET is one of those tools.
"Thank you, KET," he adds. "And a big thanks to Shelia."