Like Mike
by Ryann Mitchell
Program Manager, The Learning Center

When a student comes to The Learning Center, they are usually in one of two camps. They’re either certain they can do this or they're not really interested in being there at all and something or someone has compelled them to come to us. In June of 2021, we had an interesting case where a prospective student, Mike, fell into both of those camps. He was overly confident that he could get his GED, but he just didn’t see the point.

Mike had come to us because he was staying at Brother Bryan Mission. The Education Director from the Mission thought it would be a good idea for him to work with us and try to get his GED. Again, Mike was not sure he saw the point in that, but he followed the process and came to see us anyway. He took his initial assessment and it showed he was right. He should, in fact, have no trouble passing at least the first section of the test and probably the next two. (Typically, those are Language Arts, Social Studies, and Science.) The fourth section, however, was Math, and that might give him a little trouble.

His initial assessment was on June 2. By June 16, he had passed the Language Arts section. He passed both Social Studies and Science the next month. He was, in fact, on the fast track to finish his GED. Then came the Math test. Mike studied off and on with us and took his first practice test in September. He scored a 144. That’s one point shy of passing. He studied for a few more weeks and took the practice test again. 144. Again. The practice test is an actual GED test, just half the number of questions and half the amount of time. With a score as close as a 144, there’s always a chance students will pass the actual test, and Mike was ready to be done with this process. So, he took the actual test. Guess what he scored?
A 144.

Mike didn’t love the process of working on his GED, but at this point it was more of a challenge to be conquered. So he studied some more and took another practice test. He got the extra point and had a 145. He felt more ready than ever, so in October, he took the Math test again. He scored a 142. Still, so very close. Just not there yet. Then, after that day in October, Mike went radio silent. We didn’t see him or hear from him. We didn’t get his books back, we couldn’t get him back to class. He was done. But God had other plans for Mike.

Fast forward to April of 2022. It had been six months since we had seen Mike. He was, for all purposes, off our radar. Then one Wednesday he called. He told me on the phone, and again in person when he arrived, that he’d woken up that morning with just three letters on his mind. GED. He couldn’t explain it but he felt the Lord telling him it was time to finish this degree. Could he come in and take the test again? I said, “of course!” But I was a little nervous for him because after a third attempt at the test­—if you don’t pass any of the three times—you have to wait 60 days to take it again. We had already not seen him for six months. I knew he could pass the test, but if he didn’t for some reason, would it deter him for good?

About an hour later, he came in our front door and confidently sat down and took his test. Wouldn’t you know? He scored a 145. Just what he needed to pass and complete his GED. There was a good bit of excited yelling. He asked a few times if I was serious when I told him he’d passed. I assured him I’m not so cruel as to have told him he passed when he didn’t. After an unbearingly long wait, his diploma still wasn’t sent. So, we took a photo with someone else’s diploma so he could get back to the mission. He was so excited and ready to share his news.

Mike's story didn’t end there, however. The next week I got a call from the Education Director at Brother Bryan. He told me he had accepted a new job and that they had hired Mike to take his place. Mike had already been working with other residents on reading and math in his time there. The Brother Bryan employees had seen his passion and skill for helping people succeed and knew that since he had been where the other residents were, he would be able to help them in a more unique way than most anyone else could.

Mike is now my contact at Brother Bryan. Any time they start a new class, he sends guys to us. We currently have nine residents from the Mission regularly attending classes. Sometimes they try to get out of it—which Mike can relate to—but then he sends them anyway. Sometimes they’re confident that they will be done within a month, but it usually takes a little longer. Mostly, they find that between Brother Bryan and The Learning Center, they are developing a community of people who care about them and want to see them succeed. For their own good, but ultimately, for God’s glory, we hope guys will be like Mike. That they will persevere, be open to hearing God’s call, and be willing to serve when the opportunity comes along.

Ryann Mitchell loves working in a ministry with so many eager students and servant-hearted volunteers. She and her husband, Will, spend their free time wrangling their two daughters, Olivia and Elizabeth.