A weekend interview with ...
... Janelle K. Read, 33, dropped out of Dixie Hollins High School as a 17-year-old. On Thursday, the Pinellas County Schools plant operator walked across the stage at Ruth Eckerd Hall and received a state of Florida diploma after passing the GED test. Read spoke with reporter Donna Winchester about going back to school.
Tell me a little about yourself. Why did you drop out of school and how did you get back into school?
I left because I made some bad choices. I was skipping school and doing things that teenagers do. I didn't have that much confidence in myself. I thought I was old enough to drop out because I was working. I tried correspondence courses. I started and stopped four or five times. It was all so overwhelming to me. I would go for three months at a time and get discouraged and quit. I always had a reason. I didn't want to make the mistake of having to say I wish I'd spent more time with my kids. I was thinking, 'I'll raise the kids, then I'll do my schooling.' Then I thought, 'No, I have to better myself to show them they need to better themselves.'
What was different for you this time?
I went to the adult education center over at Clearwater High. I dragged my sister-in-law with me. She' a procrastinator like myself. I felt a little weird because I was so much older than the other students. At first I thought, 'I'm a little too old. I should have done this a long time ago.' But I took school books to work to study on breaks. I said, 'I might as well go and take what I can and pass what I can pass.' I just said, 'I'm gonna to do this.' I passed all five sections of the test with good scores.
You work at Clearwater High School. Did seeing kids every day have an influence on you?
Yes. I'd see kids walking across the stage (at graduation). I'd have tears I my eyes. I would think, 'I wish I would have done it.'
How do you feel about yourself now?
It's pretty exciting for me. I came a long way. It took me a lot of trying and quitting and trying and quitting. It took a lot to get where I'm at. I'm just really thankful. It's just a step I never thought I would take. Now I don't have to say, 'I wish.' I can say, 'I did it.'
What will you do now that you have your high school diploma?
I would love to go to college. I would love to work in an office as a clerk or something like that. I'd like to take a data prep class.
What message will you have for students who might be thinking about dropping out?
They say good things come to those who wait, but it doesn't just fall in your lap. I'll tell them, 'If you guys don't want to be a plant operator, stay in school.'