“I’ve dreamed of this my whole life,” said Esther Kirk of Martin County after receiving her GED. Kirk joined Big Sandy Area Community Action Program’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) and began to find a new way forward in life after living through some tough years.
When Kirk was just 16 years-old her mother passed away and she took on the responsibility of raising her 13 year-old and 3 year-old siblings. “There was not much income. We had it hard,” she said. She married at age 14 and had three children of her own who kept her busy. “I raised gardens. I canned. I milked cows. I churned butter. And I babysat for the rest of the family,” she said.
“I never went to a prom. I never went to a high school. I never had the childhood things that other kids had. It was just out of the question for me,” she said.
Years later, Kirk would find herself looking for a new start. Her husband, who was also her childhood sweetheart, passed away 12 years ago. Her children are grown. And she was living on a small fixed income. It was time to look for a job.
Kirk heard about the SCSEP from a friend who had been through the program. Through the program and with the assistance of Martin County Adult Education, Kirk began a new life of studying and working outside of the home.
She said that studying for her exam was really hard. “It was all new to me. Back, 50-some years ago, I only went to the 8th grade. I didn’t have algebra. I didn’t have the decimal points. I didn’t have any of the new stuff they’ve got today. So I had to really work hard. And I had good teachers to help me.”
Through SCSEP Kirk was also able to be hired for the first time for work outside the home. As a participant in the program, she has been able to hold positions with Goodwill, Appalachian Reach Out, and at Sheldon Clark High School.
Kirk, who didn’t get to spend time in high school when she was younger, now gets to regularly work with high school students working in the county high school’sResource Center. “They’re all sweet kids and my two bosses are great.” She said, “My jobs have been very rewarding. I’m out in the public a lot now. I always stayed home with my kids and very seldom went any place and now I’m just everywhere!”
Returning to her GED, she said, “My high school diploma is something that I have wanted all my life. I’ve dreamed of having it all my life. And I always felt beneath everybody because I only went through the 8th grade.” But now that she has it, nothing is going to stop her. She has even signed up to take a college computer class and keep herself moving forward.
She said, “I feel like I’m up with everybody else. I feel proud and blessed.”
Big Sandy Area Community Action’s Senior Community Service Employment Program (SCSEP) is a program designed to help low-income people over the age of 55 to receive the job training, education, and support they may need to find employment.