The term “high school dropout” carries a negative connotation, but for some, leaving high school before finishing 12th grade has nothing to do with a lack of work ethic or disregard for academics.
For Clyde Welch Jr., it was a bad home life. In 1995, the Georgia native struck out on his own, leaving high school when he was in 10th grade.
“My home life was not good,” Welch said, according to KSAZ-TV. “Mother suffered from mental health issues and dad wasn’t any help. So I moved out on my own at 15.”
But Welch hit the ground running by throwing himself into work. He dove into the construction world while most were finishing up their K-12 schooling.
After years of hard work, he became a technician and eventually started his own appliance repair shop in Edgefield, South Carolina.
Welch built a good life for himself. Not only did he start a successful business, but he also got married and started a family.
It was his children — and a nudge from God — that convinced him to finally finish what he started.
“Three of my children are still in high school and I felt I needed to be an example to them and to show them how important an education is,” Welch explained.
“After much prayer, I felt I was led by God to obtain my GED.”
After nearly three decades away from school, the task was daunting — but Welch had a dedicated support system to get him through.
Holly, Welch’s 16-year-old daughter, helped him study science, and his other children helped him prepare for tests. Even his sister-in-law joined the effort.
“My sister-in-law Kari drove over 100 miles to tutor me in math to prepare me for the test,” he said.
Driven to set a good example for his children, Welch persevered and obtained his GED from the Edgefield-McCormick County Adult Education and Literacy Center in March.
Now confidently equipped with his diploma, Welch has aspirations to further his education by pursuing a degree in engineering and a certificate in theology.
Welch’s years of hard work and experience have taught him valuable lessons, and he wants to use his story to help others.
“You may not have been born into a good life, or you may have made decisions that changed your path,” he said. “And that’s OK.”
“I just want to encourage people to take the next step to acquire the necessary education that will enable them to move forward with their personal goals. With courage, discipline and commitment it can be achieved.”
Welch also shared a Bible verse that he found particularly encouraging: “Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (Proverbs 3:6).