Winn-Dixie (Southeastern Grocers)
As Courtney was starting her senior year of high school, her family uprooted and moved to another state, which she found very difficult especially in her last year of high school.“At my age, [the move] was absolutely ridiculous and terrible. This is what caused me to drop out.”
That year she also got married and a year later had her first child. Courtney started working at Winn-Dixie (one of four grocery stores owned by parent company Southeastern Grocers) shortly after the birth of her child. At Winn-Dixie she learned how she could earn her GED® credential for free through the GEDWorks™ program.
“I always thought I would get back to school, but figured it was too late and I couldn’t do it. I would see my friends around me who had actual careers and were doing things they loved, and that motivated me to get it. I also wanted to make more money and have job security.”
As a supervisor at Winn-Dixie, Courtney received an email with details about the GEDWorks™ program and later had a discussion with her manager about participating. She signed up right away after realizing what a great opportunity it was.
Courtney managed to earn her diploma only one month after enrolling in the program and became the first GEDWorks™ graduate for Southeastern Grocers. However, she faced some challenges along the way.
“The hardest part is getting back into the habit of schoolwork. It’s hard studying and doing math after being out of school for 14 years. It was also hard to balance work and school.”
Courtney’s managers, however, were helpful and accommodating.
“I took one GED® test every week for a month. They made sure I could take time off to take the test or for classes I was required to take. If it was something for my education they made sure I had off. It also helped that my direct supervisor was also a school teacher.”
Before Courtney received her GED® credential many of her coworkers were unaware that she didn’t complete high school.
“Everyone assumed I had it based on how I handled myself at work. I tell my coworkers now because it is important for them to apply for it. It carries a stigma, it is something people look down on. They would look at me differently, but really there is no shame in it.”
The day after receiving her GED®, Courtney immediately signed up for college classes. She is currently enrolled in Coastal Alabama Community College working on her associate degree in Business Administration. Courtney has completed about 81 percent of all requirements to receive this two-year degree.
“It’s hard to balance work and school. I am a homeowner, have two kids and I’m married, but I want to keep going.”
After finishing her associate degree Courtney plans to attend Troy University’s online program to receive her bachelor’s degree. Courtney says her ultimate goal is to study Forensic Accounting to become a certified fraud examiner and she is determined to put in the work needed to accomplish her goals.
Today Courtney still remains an active part of the GEDWorks™ Facebook group, encouraging others to take part in the program and earn their degrees, even if they don’t wish to attend college. She also offers some great advice.
“I understand college is not for everyone. If college is not your thing go to technical school. Find the thing you like to do and go do it. Your education is important but it doesn’t have to be sitting in a classroom. There is something for everyone, but get some kind of education because it can only help.”
Courtney is still working at Winn-Dixie and convincing her co-workers to also get their GED® credentials.
“I try to tell people about it because it’s a great opportunity. The GED® isn’t cheap so why not use GEDWorks™? I tell them, You need to apply for this, they will help, just put in the work.”
So what did Courtney love most about the program? The confidence it gave her.
“I think that I am most appreciative of being able to be in the program because it let me see that I could do more than I thought I could. I didn’t think I was capable of getting my GED® as quickly as I did. It was a real eye-opener for me, it made all the difference for going to college. It gave me a big boost of confidence. It was the best and I am thankful for it every day.”