On Thursday, May 16, Onalaska resident Ken Hart will walk across the stage at Western Technical College’s GOAL graduation ceremony, which honors those who have completed GED, HSED, Adult High School, and Alternative High School requirements.
But his journey to this point hasn’t been an easy one.
As a young child, his parents split up. His mother raised five children on her own, moving to several towns throughout Wisconsin every few years.
At age 11, Ken began getting in trouble with the law, As a result, he was placed in foster care until he was 18.
“Those were the hardest years of my life because I was only able to see my family a handful of times,” he said. “This was especially hard because those were the years I needed my family the most.”
After a positive experience in the foster care system, Ken began taking GED courses at Western at age 24. He eventually stopped taking courses when he began working full-time and starting a family.
Ten years later, however, Ken began taking classes again.
“I had initially just planned to get my HSED while at Western Technical College, but then I discovered what was available to me through Credit for Prior Learning.”
Credit for Prior Learning is a process that allows individuals to earn college credit for valuable life and work experiences outside the classroom. Not only does the program save individuals money, it builds confidence and a sense of belonging in students.
It turns out that Ken’s work experience allowed him to earn credits within Western’s Sales Management program. After completing his high school diploma this spring, Ken plans to pursue Western’s Sales Management associate’s degree in the fall. And, given his performance thus far, his instructors believe his future is full of possibilities.
“Ken was a very dedicated and diligent student in the College Prep Center during the last few terms,” said Western instructor Dan Kern. “In addition to his full-time responsibilities of a job and family, he regularly attended our two-hour evening sessions, at the end of what were undoubtedly very long days.”
Despite those long hours and rigorous course work, Ken was motivated to make a change in his life for himself and his family.
“Anyone can learn if they put their mind to it,” said Hart. “My past has gotten in the way and clouded my future long enough. From here on out, I will not let my past be my excuse.”
“He is a source of inspiration for all of his instructors and we’ll all miss having him in the classroom,” said Kern.
Beyond the classroom, Hart hopes he is an inspiration for his family as well.
“I am building a better foundation, and a better future for my family and myself.”
For more information on Western’s Learner Support and Transition department and the services it offers, visit www.westerntc.edu/complete-high-school. Western’s GED/HSED graduation ceremony is Thursday, May 16 at 7:00 p.m. at the Lunda Center, 319 7th St. N., La Crosse.