Q&A with Johntae

What are your earliest memories of Steepletown? What was it that you came here for originally?

My earliest memory of Steepletown was from when I was in 5th grade, I had to meet with my probation officer at the Steepletown Center.  I wasn’t in any Steepletown programs yet. My friend at the time stole some sweaters, and because I was with him and I knew what he was doing, I was considered an accessory. I was only 11, and couldn’t really even comprehend what was going on. I just knew after that, I had to meet with this person at Steepletown on a regular basis.

My original purpose of coming to Steepletown was for a summer job and tutoring program. My first summer here, I worked at the West Side Garage Store (thrift store) that Steepletown operated. I pretty much provided all customer service needs. I was able to show customers around, and then start marking prices on the floor. I would go out with a small crew of other workers to help pick up and drop off furniture. It wasn’t too stressful – only when it was hot outside. That program helped me gain a lot of skills, especially how to manage my time and find purpose is every part of the job. It went well, so I did lawn care the following summer, and an internship the YMCA the summer after that.

I ended up getting expelled my senior year of high school. I was referred to another school to finish my credits, but it wasn’t a good fit for me. Everything was online, and I couldn’t learn that way, and I wasn’t making progress. So I left and came to Steepletown to get my GED. “Life” happened just after that too. I became a parent and I started working full-time, which took my attention away from school again.

What brought you back to Steepletown most recently?

After working at my job for awhile, and maturing as a person and parent, I was much more motivated to accomplish my goal. I guess you could say I was childish back then. I have some older people in my ear at work who would tell me about the importance of going back to school. They’ve helped in a lot of different ways – not only talking to me about finishing school, but even buying a house and other personal growth lessons.

I was also thinking about it for my family. I’m the youngest of 5 kids and the only one to have earned his GED (or high school diploma). So I know I made my mom proud.

What did it take for you to accomplish your goal?

I had to change the way I was thinking about it.   My twins attend the Steepletown Preschool which is right across the street from the Steepletown GED lab, so it helped a lot that I was able to drop them off, and come right over for class. I scheduled myself everyday to be sure I gave myself enough time to really get it. I think my biggest struggle was waking up, and fighting being tired. I work 2nd shift, so I tried hard to stay focused.

What was it like earning your GED? Why was it important to you?

It was just unbelievable for a second. I actually couldn’t take it in because I was getting so much love all at once. I came to pick up my kids after taking my last test, and there were people at the Preschool, even at the door greeting me, all saying “congrats!” I was exhausted at the time too, because the test was about 2 ½ hours. Everybody was happy for me. My girlfriend’s dad bought me a cake and a sweater. I think I made a lot of people proud.

Why was it important to you?

I was proud that I did it. I finally set a goal for myself and reached it. And in fashion – it was quick! I was in shock a little. The first time I tried for my GED, I wasn’t really 100% committed. I wasn’t really reading all the questions. I was more anxious to just be done than to really read. But the second time I was thinking more about why they give me that amount of time to take the test; and I realized it was the perfect amount of time if I really read the test. I told Ms Melanie exactly what I needed, like, I don’t want to be on a computer; don’t put me on a computer. Give me books, packets, papers, something else – and it worked perfectly. The math test was the one that I really needed to study for a lot.

What do you hope to do next?

I most definitely want to go to college. I just need more information on it all, like the money and the amount of time it will take. I know I’m good at what I do now, and I make a decent living. I’m ready to do something else that I really enjoy and have a passion for. I’m interested in Sports Management, or something like that.

Picture of Dick Bulkowski

Dick Bulkowski

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