I dropped out of high school to help with rent. I still have big dreams | KUOW News and Information

I dropped out of high school to help with rent. I still have big dreams

Jun 13, 2018

It's graduation season, and while many are donning their caps and gowns, others are taking a different path. Like me.

I've spent the spring trying to learn how getting a GED may impact my future.


I know a lot of kids my age hate high school, but I always loved it. Of course, waking up early sucked, but I enjoyed learning and had good grades. Psychology was my favorite class. The human mind amazes me. 

Most importantly, I saw high school as a crucial step to being the first person in my family to go to college. 

But in my junior year, my mom and I struggled to pay rent. So I left school to work more.

Livi created this story in KUOW's RadioActive Youth Media Advanced Producers Workshop. Find RadioActive on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and on the RadioActive podcast.

It was supposed to be temporary, but then a few months turned into a year, and returning to high school would have meant being two years behind. I didn't want that, but I did want to go to college.

If I wasn't going to go back to high school, I needed to get my GED. I didn't know much about it so, of course, I Googled it. The results scared me:

"A person with a GED may look like a quitter or a person that's dropped out of high school. Not quite fair in many cases, but that might be the perceptions out there."

"A high school diploma is looked upon with greater esteem than a GED."

"The vast majority of employers, they want to see a high school degree. They want to know you made it through. Are they impressed when they see a GED? Not really."

Only 5 percent of people with a GED go on to earn a bachelor's degree. That's not much. 

On average, GED holders earn $1,600 less a month than high school graduates.

When I feel lost and overwhelmed, I like to talk to someone older and wise than me. My grandma is the oldest person I know in the family, so I called and asked her how she would feel if I got a GED. 

"I'd rather you graduate," my grandma told me. "To get a job, I think it would be more impressive to have a high school diploma."

I would rather graduate too, but I don't want to wait another two years to go to college. It feels like that would be the opposite of progress. 

The author with her 600-page GED prep book, studying for the test.
Credit KUOW PHOTO/Alivia Thrift

I was determined to make the best of my situation. I went to Barnes and Noble, bought a huge, 600-page GED book, and started studying. I always tried to get good grades in school, so I wanted the highest score I could get on the GED. 

I also wanted to hear from someone who got their GED. Specifically, my mom. 

"I used to have dreams when I was in my 20s, after I was married," my mom said, "about being back in high school. My brain knew that was something I missed. I needed it."

She got her GED because she "wasn't raised to go to college," she said. "It wasn't inspired in me by anybody because I was raised to be a housewife."

My life is supposed to be different. 

My mom told me she believes a GED won't hold me back, but I know it wouldn't be her first choice for me.

"It makes me feel really funny that I put you in that same situation," she said. "I didn't mean to."

It's not the best situation, but I'm trying to look onto the horizon and make the best of it. Focus on the future and the present more than the past. 

I asked my mom if she had any advice for me. 

"Yeah," she said. "Get a high score!"

My mom doesn't seem worried, but I can tell my grandma is. "I guess you just have to do the best you can, don't ya?" my grandma said to me.

The author with her mother (center) and grandmother (right).
Credit KUOW PHOTO/Alivia Thrift

I recently took the GED, and I got a score of 177 which places me in the 95th percentile. 

One statistic I saw gave me some hope: 98 percent of colleges and universities accept people with GEDs.

I applied to Arizona State University, and I'm hoping for the best. 

Since this story was produced, Livi learned she was accepted to Arizona State, where she will attend this fall. This story was created with production support from Kamna Shastri and edited by Jenny Asarnow.