As he sits in a study room at Project Learn — a non-profit on Euclid Avenue that offers adult education programs — with sample questions for the GED (General Education Diploma) waiting on a computer screen, 29-year-old Derwin Williams explains why getting his diploma is so important. He wants to get into the construction trade, maybe as a roofer or drywall hanger, and he knows he needs a diploma to get into vocational technical classes to get that done.
Williams dropped out of East High School more than a decade ago, in part because of a gunshot wound that left him hospitalized for six months and required the removal of his kidney. He’s had some legal problems since then too, mostly from a DUI conviction a few years ago, but he’ll be sober three years this coming March. He started thinking about a GED when his probation program encouraged him to do so.
Williams is unemployed and has been studying for the four-part GED since January. In previous years, 11 months of prep would likely have given him a decent chance of success. But the test was radically changed in January, and like many, Williams hasn’t yet made enough progress to take any of the four sections. According to some sample tests he’s taken, he’s getting close in the math and science portions, but is still pretty far out in the social science and language parts.