Pamela’s Story: Getting a GED Green-Lighted the Life I Wanted

Pamela Culbertson is a Pearson employee and a GED graduate. As Pamela says, earning her GED helped her achieve the life she dreamed of  for her family. Here, she shares her GED story.


Childhood in Spain

Many who work with me today may not know that I am a GED graduate.

My father retired from the military and we settled in Spain where my mother was from. I went to Spanish schools in Spain all throughout middle school. My parents then decided to put my siblings and me in a private, American parochial school in Spain that offered self-paced learning. There, I completed my ninth grade education.

An Unexpected Challenge

The following year, our parents decided to put us back into the Spanish educational system. We submitted our paperwork, and I attended Spanish high school for tenth grade.

At the end of that year, the school informed us they would not accept our paperwork. We inquired about the possibility of me re-completing ninth grade so I could move on to eleventh grade, since I’d already completed tenth grade.

We were told that no, I would have to start high school all over again. I was crestfallen. I felt defeated, deflated and then angry.

A New, Personalized Path

I then decided with my family that I would study on my own at home with GED prep book and then sit for the GED at the American military base nearby. And that was exactly what I did.

On my own, at home, as both my parents worked outside the home, I studied my book and took the GED the minute I was ready and able at age 16. And then the waiting began. In the meantime, I also took the civil service exam to become a certified Spanish translator.

The Best Birthday Present

Finally, the results arrived! Right before my 17th birthday I received the results: I had passed with flying colors!

Pamela2To this day, that day has been one of the most meaningful days of my life.A door, an opportunity was now on the horizon for me.

I started college at age 17 via the various American Universities located on the military installation.

A Family-Focused Hiatus

I completed the basic year of college basics and took a hiatus. In that time, I worked retail management and got married, knowing all the while I wanted to pursue going back to school as we were transferred all over the country as a military spouse.

Then what was excitement turned into something a lot less. There was so much stigma back in the day and sometimes even today, I have felt the judgment associated with obtaining a GED.

At that time, I would go to interviews for positions, they would see the GED on my resume and then the questions would begin…as if somehow not going through the traditional high school route one is not smart enough, committed enough.

I had skills and value but with the GED, I was always seen as something less, that I although I had the knowledge to perform the requirements of the position, I needed a college degree to get in the door.

Balancing Motherhood and Night School

So the next step in my educational journey started anew. With a 6-month-old son, I returned to college at night, taking care of him during the day.

As he was diagnosed with autism, I tooCulbertson3k him to all his therapy appointments and educated myself on autism, teaching him and still going full time to school at night.

I worked part time at night to help makes ends meet. I had my second son, also with special needs, while entering my third year of college.

Being Seen Differently

I graduated with honors with a Bachelor’s degree in International Business and a minor in Finance, and then started on the next part of my life. I have to honestly say that I was so eager to be able to remove the GED from my resume and replace it with my newly minted college-graduated status.

People started to see me differently as to who I was, my potential and my capabilities. I felt that now my life on paper matched in others’ eyes what I had known about myself all along. Then my “professional” career started.

Unfortunately, shortly after graduating, I became divorced, solely supporting my two children with autism. I was so grateful that I had pursued my degree as it has enabled me to take care of my children and provide for them in a meaningful manner.

Graduate School, and a Near-Perfect GPA

Over this time, I have continued to grow professionally and personally, supporting and teaching my children, learning new skills, obtaining my PMP.

I went back to school while at Pearson, every other weekend, and obtained my Executive MBA a number of years ago: with a 3.97 GPA.

 I am so proud that Pearson is taking the time to honor the GED graduates and the work we do.

Every person’s life journey is different. Many have stories of hardship and challenges and stressful life events that contribute to their not going the “traditional” route.

Valuable Diversity in Experiences

One thing that we should consider when looking at these individuals is that they have shown tenacity and determination to improve their Pamelalife and the lives of their communities through obtaining a GED.

These qualities are very needed in our workforce today to help us not only sustain, but to grow.

Diversity in experiences brings diversity in thought and gives us better insights into those we are striving to serve.

As I tell my children, it’s not how you start life that matters, it’s how you finish it that does.

Getting my GED helped me step onto the path and step up and into the life I wanted for me and my family.

I am a first generation college graduate. However, it all started with me obtaining my GED, and that, I never forget.