I have written about Tremayne before, nearly two years ago. A link to that post follows this one. Today, Tremayne and I worked on his graduation speech that he will deliver to our GED graduation this coming Tuesday. Days like these, few and far between, make everything worthwhile. I am posting his speech here, as I am too excited to wait for him to give it in a few days:
Good evening, my name is Tremayne Harmon and I want to tell you a little about myself and how I found myself at Moraine Valley College and the GED program. I was born in Chicago, but I was raised in Youngstown, Ohio. My father left our home at an early age, so I was raised by a single mother. Coming up in the streets with no father figure and little financial support, I did what I needed to do to survive. School didn’t buy food, and I felt that it was not important at that time in my life. Even though I eventually got out of Youngstown, others did not. My sister was murdered at 24. A friend, John, attempted to rob someone and was killed. Another friend, Mark, was executed by the State of Ohio just three years ago. He called me an hour before they put him to death.
Thank God I got out of Youngstown, Ohio. If I hadn’t I don’t believe I would be here now.
When I was 21, after a year and a half in juvenile detention, I reconnected with my father in Chicago and eventually received a job with the railroad, but it was through a contractor. I worked there for five years and was getting my life together; at least I thought it was all coming together. Over time, the contractors lost their bid to work for the railroad and the Burlington Northern Santa Fe railroad took over. With my work experience and the strong work ethic I had developed, an opportunity arose that would allow me to work for this new railroad and keep a good job, but there was one small catch. Even though I had all of the qualifications to do the job well, I lacked the required high school education! I was very frustrated. I was losing my job temporarily, but the railroad said it would hold my job while I pursued my GED. I was nervous at the thought of returning to school at this point in my life, and I knew they couldn’t hold the job for me forever. With the amazing support of my family, I decided to find a program. My wife researched some schools and found out that this program was starting soon. There were other schools available, but she thought this school had the best resources and least distractions (I really think she thought there were less attractive women in the suburbs – if only she knew! Just kidding honey).
By receiving a massive amount of help from Dean Michael, Miss Karen, Miss Swift, Miss Jessica, Miss K and all the other teachers and staff, I eventually made it through and I was able to earn my GED. It wasn’t easy though. It took me a whole year just to get up the nerve to attempt my first GED test. It was tough getting down here to classes sometimes, and being unemployed put a lot of pressure on me and my family. I took many courses and made steady and gradual progress though. I took the test a few more times and started passing several of the sections. Being out of school for 25 years, this gave me a lot of encouragement. Math was hardest! When I received my final math results from my wife over the phone, I ran into school crying thanking Jesus! A grown man crying – please don’t tell the guys at 14th and Canal St.! The last hurdle was my essay – Miss K and Miss Jessica never let me give up and I passed this last test a year and a half later after I made that first move to get back to work and save my job.
Derek and Latrese, the terminal managers were excited and had me reapply for my job. Two months later, I was back to work with a career now ahead of me. Six months later, I was promoted to being a conductor with better pay, better hours, and weekends off. Thank you Jesus again.
The late Nelson Mandela said that education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world. Moraine Valley College provided an excellent avenue for me to achieve my educational goals. As an adult, it’s hard to go back to school. Hard work and never giving up is a necessity. By never giving up, all impossibilities become possibilities.
I waited until I was forced to make these changes – if you are out there now in the audience, or know someone who needs to complete their GED, please don’t wait. Moraine Valley is the place you need to be, don’t look anywhere else. The support here is like that of a family; people will reach out to you and encourage to keep going. Coming from where I came from to where I am now tells me it is nothing but God – He put all these people in my life and he will put them in your life too. All you have to do is believe and make the effort.