The 42-year old Kingston resident was one of 919 individuals who earned their General Educational Development diploma through Chattahoochee Technical College's adult education program from July 1, 2009, to June 30.
"It is a big milestone," Denton said, about obtaining his GED in March and attending the graduation ceremony at CTC's North Metro Campus. "I feel very proud to have gotten my GED. I feel like a lot more doors have opened for me. It enabled me to go on and further my education. Of course that's the biggest door that's opened."
Denton, an electrician by trade, was inspired to attain a GED diploma after losing his job in May 2009. After years of performing strenuous work with no opportunities for advancement, he felt it was vital to obtain the education needed for him to obtain a more fulfilling profession. Currently a freshman at Georgia Highlands College, he is pursuing a career in drug and alcohol counseling.
"The reason I felt like it was important to do was because I had been telling lies on my job application for years to get a job -- a decent job," Denton said. "And of course, you can't get a job without a GED or high school education, anything besides remedial jobs and nothing that you can make a substantial amount of money at. I got tired of telling stories about that on my job application.
"But the most important reason is to get a job, to get a better job. ... [I withdrew from high school] in the middle of the 10th grade because I wanted to have my freedom. It seemed like I didn't have time for school. I just wanted to hang out with people. It's been hard. I've had to do really hard work. I'm an electrician by trade. Luckily I was able to get into a trade but I've had to do really back-breaking work, digging ditches, just things like that in the electrician trade. I couldn't move up further in the electrical trade so I was stuck in the remedial position doing electrical work."
For about eight months, Denton prepared for the GED test by taking classes at Cartersville's Summer Hill Educational and Recreational Complex. Typically spending 32 hours a week at the complex, Denton credits the GED instructors for their assistance in reintroducing him to scholastics and strengthening his study habits.
"My biggest challenge was the math," he said. "The math seemed to give me a little more trouble than anything else. It took a lot of practice for me to learn how to study. I had actually forgotten how to study, so it took a lot of willpower. By me going up there twice a day that helped a lot. But it took a lot of practice to learn how to study again."
The obstacles Denton faced as he re-entered the world of academia are common among most GED students, said Jon Collins, executive director for CTC's adult education program. With the average GED student being a woman in her mid-30s, the majority of scholars have taken a significant break from their previous educational endeavors.
"Our experience is that they will have a difficulty with the math and they'll also have a difficulty with their writing skills," Collins said, adding free GED preparation classes are held in Bartow County at the North Metro Campus in Acworth and Cartersville's Summer Hill Educational and Recreational Complex, and each test costs $95. "So they're fearful about all of that and then here they are now -- they're an adult. They'll have children, and so pride gets in the way. They may lack confidence. They just don't know that they can really do it.
"So I think it takes a lot of courage to come and see us because you can imagine, here you are now -- you're an adult. What if you fail again? That's the hard part. What if you fail? Then, what do you do? So I try to tell them, 'Look, forget about the past. Yesterday doesn't matter anymore. It's today that counts.' And we're very good at helping them learn all of the things they need to know. We'll stay with it as long as it takes to make sure that they learn what they need to learn."
Due to the graduates' hard-fought accomplishments and commitment to bettering their lives, CHC's GED ceremonies at its Appalachian and North Metro campuses are an amazing sight to behold, Collins said.
"Over the years you hear lots of things. Some of them will say, 'I've been successful in my life but there's always been this thing that's been missing. There's been this empty spot and now I've accomplished it,'" he said. "And now it really opens the door to their future because one of the things that we really tell them now -- 'The GED opens the door to the future but it doesn't keep it open.' We really want them to go on and there's so many opportunities since we merged [colleges in 2009].
"There's so many programs available for them that can really increase not only their employment opportunities but the skills that they can take into the workplace. So it's just really tremendous what they can do for themselves as well as their families. So I think they begin to get a glimpse of that. [The recognition ceremonies are] a very emotional thing for them. It's a time of great joy. It's unlike anything you've ever been to. There's so much energy in the room because it's been such a struggle, and they're very proud of their accomplishment. They're able to now say, 'I have done this thing' and now the future is wide open for them."