GED encourages local woman to pursue dream

Bianca Waters, 21, of Riverdale recently received her GED (General Education Development) diploma through the Technical College of Georgia.

Bianca Waters, 21, of Riverdale recently received her GED (General Education Development) diploma through the Technical College of Georgia.

The future is looking brighter for Bianca Waters these days.

The 21-year-old Riverdale resident recently received her GED (General Education Development) diploma, through the Technical College of Georgia. And she has already started planning her future.

It's been a difficult road for Waters, but when she got word last month that she had passed the five-subject GED, and gained the equivalent of a high school diploma, she felt like jumping for joy. "I was so happy to complete my GED!" she said, excitedly.

In search of a better life, Waters relocated from Joliet, Ill., earlier this year, where, she said, she had been automatically dropped from Joliet West High School at the age of 18, because she "missed too many days of school."

Her reason for missing so many days, she explained, was because she would often go from living with her grandmother, to traveling with her mother. "My mom would move [around] a lot," she said.

When Waters was dropped from high school, her "train of thought" was more focused on hanging out with her friends and partying, than taking care of the right priorities, she said. She spent a lot of time "hanging with the wrong crowd, and making irresponsible decisions." She did attempt to get her GED for awhile, there. "I was going to Joliet Junior College and taking classes, but I never made it to the end."

After awhile, though, she began to grow weary of hanging out all hours of the night -- and that's when "the light bulb went off" in her head. She came to the conclusion that she was rushing down a dead-end street.

"I looked at my friends and saw they were not doing anything with their lives, and I was in an abusive relationship," she said, "At that moment, I knew I needed to make a change."

Waters said her mother was already living in Riverdale -- and after giving it a lot of thought, she decided to relocate and live with her mother. "I was scared to move [at first], because I had never been out of Illinois before."

Once in Riverdale, she said, she wasted no time in her pursuit of a GED. "I was calling around and ended up at Job Corps." From there, she was referred to Crossroads Comprehensive Youth Development Center, a non-profit organization, located at 737 Veterans Parkway, in Jonesboro.

Waters said she was told about the Success For Life Youth Program (SFL). The organization's C.E.O, Willie Simpson, said the program is a prevention-and-intervention initiative for young people, ages 14 to 21, who are in need of educational, vocational and life skills. A GED component targets youths who have dropped out of high school, are on the verge of dropping out, or are ex-offenders.

Crossroads employee and GED instructor, Alvino Cooper, said he teaches classes four days a week, and helps young people learn the skills to prepare for the GED and the workforce. "We teach them how to write a resume, interviewing skills, and life skills," said Cooper. "So far, we have about 19 students enrolled in the [SFL] program."

Simpson said her first impression of Waters was a little shaky. "She seemed to be focused, but she had some things she [needed] to take care of. I thought she wasn't going to make it, to be honest with you."

But, Simpson said, Waters started to show she had determination, and her perception of Waters changed. So, when Waters contacted Simpson to let her know she had completed the GED, Simpson said she was overtaken with joy.

Waters said she now plans to attend college and become a registered nurse. "I love helping people, and my dream has always been to become a nurse," she said. "So far, I've been looking at Atlanta Tech -- just some where to start off."

She added that, because of her affiliation with the Success For Life program, her dreams are now becoming possible. "They [the SFL staff members] really helped me with anything I needed," said Waters.

Out of the group of 19 students, said Simpson, Waters is the first to get her GED. "I was looking for an example to hold everybody else to," added Simpson. "This is somebody they all knew, who has sat in class with them, and got her GED -- so, I hope this can give them hope that it can happen."

For more information about the Success For Life Youth Program, call (770) 756-9100.