Making a Difference: Creating Opportunities
Secretary Ramsey says education opens doors at any stage of life.
Not long after helping the Oakland Raiders win the Super Bowl in 1981, Derrick Ramsey, then the team’s tight end, was compelled to confront something he hadn’t previously given much thought to: his post-football career.
Ramsey had suffered his first major injury, one that sidelined him for most of the 1982 season, and the time away from the gridiron made him reflective. What would he do if he no longer could play professional football?
The question ultimately prompted the former University of Kentucky star to return to school and finish his college degree.
“What I realized was that this thing — football — could be over at any time,” Ramsey said. “And there were guys on the team who were always on me about getting back to school.”
It’s a lesson that Ramsey, now in his post as Kentucky’s Secretary of Education and Workforce Development, is eager to share — that one’s career is often a series of reinventions, where the path from one point to the next is, in many cases, guided by education.
And it’s why Ramsey says he prizes KET and the educational resources it creates, such as the FastForward program, which helps people lay the groundwork for the next chapter in their lives.
FastForward, launched by KET in 2014, is a complete online educational resource to help prepare people for the high school equivalency exam. The system, with its series of interactive online lessons, is easy to use and has proven results: 90 percent of those who complete the course go on to earn their GED® credential.
“I think the GED is truly something to be celebrated,” Ramsey said. “I say that because there are folks out there who, somehow or other, their lives have gotten sidetracked. If we can encourage and support them, they will have a second shot at it — and that can open up a whole new world of opportunities.”
Reared in the small town of Hastings, Florida, by parents who each worked two jobs to support him and his four siblings, Ramsey said he learned early on that his family measured success not by what was accomplished on the field but rather what was achieved in the classroom.
He recalled the time when his mother, furious that her son had gotten a D in English class, pulled him from his high school football team for the semester, unconcerned that he was the star quarterback who had led the team to back-to-back state championships.
“It was more important for my mom to see me and my siblings get an education so we wouldn’t have to work two jobs for the rest of our lives,” Ramsey said. “She understood the bigger picture.” Not long after Ramsey completed his degree, his mother let him know that she, too, had made an investment in herself: She had returned to school and earned her GED credential.
Her experience, as well as countless others he’s witnessed across Kentucky, Ramsey said, underscored the notion that there’s no one-size-fits-all approach to education. “Sometimes we get caught up in the idea that people do things the same way — everyone arriving and going at the same time,” Ramsey said. “But that’s not life, or at least certainly not life as I know it. It’s different for everybody.”
What’s important, he says, is that everyone has access to opportunities, regardless of where they are in their lives. And it’s why KET plays such a vital role in Kentucky, Ramsey said, creating quality educational tools like the FastForward resource that allow “people to learn at their own speed and get where they want to go at their own pace.”
And because FastForward comes from KET, Ramsey said, people know they can trust it. “From its work with early childhood education to its teacher development and resources for K-12, KET has been the bedrock of education in the Commonwealth,” Ramsey said. “It’s a wonderful partnership, not just for the cabinet, but for the entire state of Kentucky.”