GED scholar finds program 'a perfect opportunity'

October 13, 2011|By RICHARD F. BELISLE |
  • Wayne Turner works on the computer at the Jefferson County Adult Learning Center in Charles Town, W.Va., under the watchful eye of the center's GED director, Frank Houston.
Photo by Richard F. Belisle

CHARLES TOWN, W.Va. — Brigitte Bardot, Sean Connery, Frank Sinatra, Steve McQueen, George Harrison, Gene Hackman, James Garner, Eminem, Peter Jennings, Jerry Lewis and Wayne Turner.

Wayne Turner?

Wayne Turner grew up and still lives in Shannondale in the mountainous area of Jefferson County. He and those above, plus thousands of others, famous and unknown, have earned their GEDs, or General Education Development certificates.

Turner dropped out of seventh grade at age 15, barely able to read.

“I was passed on from grade to grade even though I wasn’t learning anything,” he said. “When I got to the upper grades I couldn’t answer the questions. I wasn’t smart enough. They sent me away.”

Turner, 55, said he was sent to the West Virginia Industrial School for Boys in Grafton, now known as Pruntytown Correctional Center, for truancy.

“The judge told me I would go to school everyday there. I did, and I learned,” Turner said.

He left the school in 1972 and kicked around at odd construction jobs for a few years until he got a job in his wife’s family’s construction business. “Her uncles and brothers taught me to become a heavy equipment operator,” Turner said.

Life went fine until Dec. 12, 2007, when he slipped off his bulldozer and ended up with permanent back injuries. Four months later an auto accident sealed his fate. He would never work again at anything that required the use of his body.

“I’m limited to how long I can stand or sit,” he said. “It’s permanent. What I got is never going to go away. I’m still getting treatment.”

He is on permanent disability status.

In April 2009, he enrolled in the Jefferson County Adult Learning Center at 322 W. Washington St.

He read on a second-grade level, said Frank Houston, the center’s GED instructor.

Turner is one of nearly 300 people who enroll in the program each year. More than 75 percent earn GEDs, Houston said.

Instruction covers writing, reading, social studies, science and math. The program is free.

The biggest age group is 16 to 24, Houston said. The next largest is 45 to 44.

The center also offers English as a second language in a separate room.

“Wayne made small progress at the beginning,” Houston said. “He worked hard to improve his grade level.”

Turner completed his course work in September, passed the test and is just waiting for his diploma from the West Virginia Department of Education.

He’s undecided about participating in the center’s annual graduation ceremonies in June.

He said he wanted a GED so he could work as much as his disabilities allow.

“I want to feel better about myself. This has been a perfect opportunity for me. I loved learning,” he said.

He still comes to the center for a few hours nearly every day. His new goal: learning the computer keyboard so he can go online.

“I see so many people out there who tell me, ‘I wish I had my GED.’ It’s all here, and it’s all free.”

To learn more
Go to and click on the Adult and Community Ed. box on the left side of the page.

The Herald-Mail Articles