We profiled three people who could have given up on themselves, but didn’t. After decades of asking “What if?” they went back and got their high school equivalencies. They overcame bad choices and bad luck to improve their career opportunities, but more importantly, improve their self-image and self-worth.
Part 2 of 4. What my GED means to me: Bruce’s story.
Three years ago, Bruce Reaser didn’t want to see tomorrow.
The 36-year-old resident of Easton’s West Ward was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis.
How would he be a good father to his three children? How would he cope with this new challenge?
“I went into a hole. I shut everybody out,” he said.
He attempted suicide.
“My mental state went extremely bad,” Reaser said.
He looked back over his life and wasn’t proud of what he saw.
He dropped out of Wilson Area High School in tenth grade. He consumed and sold marijuana, cocaine and ecstasy.
“While all my friends and everyone was in school, I was home sleeping. Then I was up until 3 or 4 o’clock in the morning, doing the same thing every day,” Reaser said.
By the time he was 18 he’d had enough of that lifestyle. He tried different jobs. By age 20, he had a son. He worked in a machine shop. He made decent money, but something in his life was missing.
He split with the mother of his son and met the woman to whom he’s currently married, Latifah Graham.
She’s his rock.
“There have been times I wanted to just give up, but she gave me the encouragement to keep going. A simple thank you doesn’t even come close to how appreciative I am for her dedication and support,” he said.
Through therapy, he realized multiple sclerosis doesn’t have to define his life. He was awakened to realize how much his family still needs him and loves him.
“I can walk. I can still do things. I’m still here. I am still able to run around with my kids,” he said.
With the encouragement of his wife, Reaser decided to reach a goal he had long ago given up on: getting his high school equivalency diploma.
He endured headaches and other symptoms of his disease and took GED classes at ProJeCt of Easton. He failed the test. He kept trying. Then he got his GED.
“I just want to be someone my kids can look up to. I just want them to see that they can be or do anything that they want,” he said.
He takes medication to control his condition. He gets an annual MRI to check for new lesions on his brain or spine. And he knows he’s the one responsible for his outlook on life.
The teachers at ProJeCt were so impressed with his turnaround they asked him to speak at the GED program graduation ceremony in mid June. He was nervous but his wife was there to help bring out his best.
“To every graduate here this evening I want you to look at yourselves and see the dedication, the commitment and loyalty you’ve all put into yourselves to be sitting here tonight. I hope you all continue to go as far as you possibly can,” he told the GED graduates.
Getting his GED has given him new faith in his abilities and in his life.
His wife went back to college and he’s thinking about joining her. It might be too much for him to handle, but he’ll never know until he tries.
“As of right now I have no idea what I want to do. One thing I know is I don’t want to give up,” he said.
You can donate to ProJeCt of Easton on its website.
Part 1: James’ story
Part 3: Natasha’s story
Part 4: ProJeCt of Easton’s GED program
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Rudy Miller may be reached at [email protected].