He had worked as a manager for Irving Materials Inc. in Indianapolis for 18 years, yet he was not even qualified to work at McDonald’s.
Phillip Blaylock, 42, lost his job in the construction business about two years ago, but no one would consider him for other employment opportunities.
One credential was missing from his resume — a high school diploma.
“When I lost my job, I lost everything,” he said. “I’ve been struggling tremendously ever since then.”
Blaylock tried to work around it. He would “forget to mention” he dropped out of high school at the age of 16 and never earned a diploma.
“I was never really truthful about it,” he said. “But that was catching up to me.”
Despite being hesitant and scared, he said, he forced himself to walk through the doors at McDowell Adult Education Center to earn his High School Equivalency Diploma.
Blaylock was one of 164 who earned the diploma this year.
He was named the 2014 Outstanding Learner by the Indiana Association for Adult and Continuing Education.
The class, recognized in a ceremony Wednesday, was the first to graduate with the new diploma, which replaced the General Education Diploma Jan. 2.
McDowell Director Andrea Quick said the new test raises the bar for students and better measures college and career readiness.
Nearly 90 percent of McDowell students taking the new tests have passed, Quick said.
The center prepared for the change by making classes more interactive and engaging.
The classes helped Blaylock, who said everyone at McDowell took interest in him and what he could accomplish.
He was hesitant at first when he discovered how young his instructor was.
“I quit school before this kid was born,” he said. “But he sat down and broke down the barriers and broke down that age difference and brought it down to a level I could understand.”
Now when Blaylock applies for jobs — he said he’s trying to get caught back up in life right now — he’ll proudly list McDowell Education Center under education.
Quick said the graduation ceremony is one of the most inspirational events she participates in all year.
Blanca Matos spoke of coming to Columbus from Mexico nearly three years ago, and Morgan Marshall gave a speech about overcoming drug addiction.
“The students’ speeches are truly humbling when you realize the obstacles they face and manage to overcome in order to do things we take for granted,” Quick said.