For the Marines, a GED isn't good enough

Sharaya Jackson returned to high school this fall after dropping out
Sharaya Jackson returned to high school this fall after dropping out half way through her senior year. She plans on joining the U.S. Marine Corps in April 2011. Photo courtesy of Sharaya Jackson.
Reporter Erika Roedl
Reporter Erika Roedl
The reason I enrolled back into school was because I found out that the Marines would not accept a GED. I needed a high school diploma.

Editor’s note: Sharaya Jackson, 19, dropped out half way through her senior year at Washburn High School in Minneapolis. She left home because of conflicts with her mother, and became homeless.

“I was sleeping outside with no money to eat. I didn’t want to go to school because I didn’t have clean clothes or anywhere to shower,” Sharaya said.

This summer, Minneapolis Public Schools conducted a campaign called We Want You Back with a goal of re-enrolling 200 of the estimated 1,900 high school students who dropped out last year. The campaign ended up enrolling 247 students.

Sharaya returned to school this fall, but not because of the campaign. She returned because of the U.S. Marine Corps.

Reporter Erika Roedl interviewed Sharaya about why she decided to go back and get her diploma.

When did you drop out of school?

Sharaya: I dropped out of high school about half way through my senior year at Washburn.


Sharaya: I did this because I was homeless and had no stability. I was sleeping outside with no money to eat. I didn’t want to go to school because I didn’t have clean clothes or anywhere to shower.

I was so close (to finishing school) but I was mentally unstable and couldn’t focus on school. When I did go to school, the only thing I could think about all day was where I would end up that night. That is why I dropped out of high school.

Why did you become homeless?

Sharaya: I was homeless due to family issues. I made the decision to leave these issues behind versus staying and dealing with them. This resulted in me being homeless.

The reason I left home was because my mother was trying to fight and I wasn’t comfortable staying somewhere I didn’t feel safe. She was trying to fight me because she had sex with one of my friends for the second time and I lost all respect for her for that. She (had) promised to not do it again. She blamed it on me, so I started yelling and she tried to start swinging.

Did you manage to find help? Are you no longer homeless?

Sharaya: I was homeless for about three months before my friend and her parents took me in. I stayed there until I felt I could be on my own. That took about three to four months. I am no longer homeless.

What made you re-enroll in high school?

Sharaya: The reason I enrolled back into school was because I found out that the Marines would not accept a GED. I needed a high school diploma.

Why won’t the Marines accept a GED?

Sharaya: The Marines will not accept a GED because, well, it’s a supply-and-demand thing. The demand of the Marines is lower than the (supply of) people enlisting, so the expectations are higher.

How many more credits do you need to graduate?

Sharaya: I need about 10 or so credits, give or take a few.

How are you going to earn those credits?

Sharaya: I am earning my credits through online (classes) and the portfolio program.

What are the online and portfolio programs?

Sharaya: Minneapolis Online is a program in which you can receive a high school diploma through online courses and the Portfolio Program is pretty complicated. See sidebar for more information on the portfolio program.

The portfolio program gives students high school credit for life experiences. When students enroll in Minneapolis Online, they meet with a counselor who evaluates what credits they need, and what experiences they’ve had that may have taught them about things about school subjects like math, health, science, and more.

Students write about their experiences for their portfolio, and they are evaluated by a teacher to see what education the students already have, and what other learning the student still needs to do.

The assigned tasks are project-based. For example, if a student needs to learn about nutrition, they might be given a problem to solve: unhealthy diets. The teacher might ask the student to develop a healthy menu, for which the student would have to do research and interviews.

Then a teacher reviews the student’s work to see what education standards have been met.

“You want to give students credit for their real-world experience, but it still has to meet the standard of the district,” said Frank Goodrich, a teacher with Minneapolis Online.

Source: Frank Goodrich, a physical education and health teacher with Minneapolis Online

How long before you finish school?

Sharaya: It should be about two to three months, tops, before I receive my high school diploma.

Do you still plan on joining the Marines?

Sharaya: Yes. I leave for boot camp in April of 2011 (in) Parris Island, S.C.

Why would you like to join the Marines?

Sharaya: I have always wanted to join the United States Armed Forces, but I didn’t know I wanted to be a Marine until about seven years ago. I had met a group of Marines and talked with them and that’s when I made my decision to be the best. The way the thought of being a Marine makes me feel is a feeling worth dying for. I was born to be a United States Marine and I will die one!

What would you tell other people about why they should go back to school?

Sharaya: Well … high school is the hardest, yet most important time of your life. You can’t get anywhere without a diploma or equivalent and, (for) some places, a GED isn’t even enough.

The stress and time it takes to acquire a diploma the first time around is worthwhile because it is so much more difficult to acquire one later on in life. The older you get, the less options there are.

Make the right decision the first time, get it out of the way so you can move forward and never have to worry about it again. School may be hard and even “suck” sometimes, but getting through that just gets you ready for a “real life.”

Life is not easy but no one ever said it would be. You dream will not fall into your lap. You must get up, get out, and chase it down. Fight for what you want and you can have it. I was once told by a wise man success begins with the decision to simply try. Trying can change your life for the better! I know, I’m doing it!

I am really proud to be so close. My life is drastically changing for the better and I really enjoy that. I can see things I’ve never seen before and do things I’ve only dreamed of.