Student of the Month: Edward P.
Growing up, Edward P. wasn’t given many reasons to feel hopeful about his future. When he hadn’t started talking by age six, neurologists told his parents it was unlikely that he would ever learn to speak, have healthy relationships, or live independently. Edward did, in fact, begin speaking just two years after this assessment, but his local public school wouldn’t accept him as a student, so Edward’s parents enrolled him in a private school that was willing to provide the support he needed.
Edward had a difficult time in elementary school. He struggled to follow directions and pay attention in class, and because schools didn’t always have the resources to help him, he was transferred to a different one every year. To make matters worse, Edward also dealt with bullying. “Elementary school was twice as hard for me as it was for others,” he said. “I was constantly taken advantage of and mocked. Some kids didn’t understand why I came on a different bus than the long ones they all rode in. The truth was I couldn’t handle the crowding or the teasing.”
Despite struggling in school, Edward found emotional outlets, like learning to play the violin and participating in the conservation club, that helped him process his experiences. After he finished elementary school, his attitude toward school started to change. “I became mindful of the conduct expected of me,” he reflected. “I focused myself more. I made it to high school, and somehow the low-functioning autistic boy got enrolled as an honors student in six months.”
Although he finished high school with a high GPA and did well on the SAT, Edward was advised that college would be too challenging for him. Having already made it much further in life than anyone expected, though, he wasn’t about to give up now. Edward decided that if a degree could help him have a successful career, then college was worth a shot.
Edward’s favorite subject in high school was history, so he decided he wanted to be a history teacher. After four years in college, though, he realized that in order to teach, he would have to spend even more time in school. “I wanted to get working,” he said, “and I would still be getting the degree for teaching history.”
Edward got his first post-college job at an assisted living facility. Equipped with a wide knowledge of history, he found it easy to connect with residents. Two years into the role, he decided it was time to take his next step and move into a higher position. However, when he showed interest in a management role, his boss told him he wasn’t qualified because he had no prior experience. With the realization that he was stuck in a dead-end job with no room for growth, Edward quit.
Hoping to find a job that would provide him more opportunities, Edward accepted a position at a restaurant — and only six months into his new role, he was promoted to kitchen manager. Shortly after his promotion, Edward learned that through his employer’s education benefits with Guild, he could go back to school debt-free. He started browsing available programs and found the perfect match. “When I saw organizational leadership,” he recalled, “I was just reminded how at my old job, they were like, ‘Oh, you don’t have any management experience.’ I was like, ‘Well, I’m going to now.’ So I signed up.”
Edward started school in January and is currently three classes into his program. “I think the biggest thing that made me do it was I want to go all the way up where I am,” he said. “There’s like six promotions, and who knows how far I’ll go. Maybe I’ll be the new CEO one day. You never know!”
Working toward his degree has already helped Edward progress even further at work. Since starting school, he has been promoted a second time, this time to service manager. “Just starting this program nailed me this upcoming promotion at the end of the month without question,” he said. “In fact, just doing this degree was my trump card when I had to compete for this promotion.”
Edward’s degree will do more than just help him move up at work — it will help him show the world that he’s capable of so much more than what he’s been told. “I feel like for all the people at my last job who said, ‘You don’t look like the type that’s cut out for management,’ I didn’t agree,” he said. “And now I can take this whole program, and I can tell them, ‘Here you go. Here’s my degree. You were wrong. I was right. I’m a manager. I’m a leader.’”
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