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Are You Qualified For A GED Test Scholarship?

Bill Zeeble
Ronald McCullough is 24, dropped out of high school, dropped out of the last GED course hie signed up for, and served time in jail. But he's registering for the GED again because without it or a high school diploma, he can't find work

Adult GED students often juggle family, job, and classes to get that high school-equivalency diploma. And then there’s the cost of the test. Dallas – based Atmos Energy has started picking up the tab.

$135 can be a lot of money, even for those with a decent job. For those without work, it’s even more daunting, especially for people lacking a high school diploma or GED in the first place.

“I haven’t had anyone give me an opportunity without it yet.”

That’s 24 year-old Ron McCullough, who says he got too sidetracked in high school to finish. Then he served jail time. After getting out two years ago, he tried to get a GED but dropped out of the class. He’s been living at home trying to find work.

“I’ve been looking for fast food, maintenance, dish washing,  anything that can get a check stub, mostly. I haven’t been able to get it,” McCullough says.

Today, McCullough’s at the Lochwood Branch Library in East Dallas registering again for a 10-week GED class. When he’s done, there’s still the test. McCullough might then qualify for the $135 scholarship that pays for it. 

“That, that would be something I would enjoy,” McCullough says, “because it saves money and it just shows how they care about you caring about getting your GED.” 

Atmos and the Dallas Library have partnered for several years on literacy programs and last fall opened up the GED computer test center in the downtown Dallas library. Then it added GED test scholarships.

Kate Park, Executive Director of Friends of the Dallas Public Library, says the test money’s more important than people think.

Credit Bill Zeeble / KERA News
This GED testing center in Dallas' downtown library was paid for by Dallas based Atmos Energy. The company has now kicked in scholarship money so qualified students don't have to pay the $135 fee

“It definitely is real money,” Park explains. “I mean, if you remove the barrier of $135 to be able to get your GED, that’s one barrier removed from someone actually being able to get their high school equivalence.”

Lilly Cooper’s signing up for GED classes again too. She dropped out four previous times, like she did in high school. She says this time’s different.

“You know I have my son to live for, give him a chance. He really gives me a lot of motivation.,” Cooper says.

She wants to get her GED so she can attend Eastfield College and become a nursing assistant. It’s hard working two waitress jobs.

“You’ve got to look 30 years from now, 20 years from now,” Cooper says. “Are you going to be working in restaurant and $200 a week or do you want to make $ 32,000 a year and not worry about living paycheck to paycheck?”

For Cooper, a GED scholarship would be like a bonus.

“Um, you know, it’s a big…it’s like the money I really don’t have, $135,” Cooper says.

The scholarships really add up. In less than 2 months, Atmos Energy has paid for 80 vouchers. That’s nearly $11,000. 

Bill Zeeble has been a full-time reporter at KERA since 1992, covering everything from medicine to the Mavericks and education to environmental issues.