Assignment: Education – It’s never too late
LA CROSSE, Wis. — From a very young age, Fred Converse always liked to take things apart to see how they worked. He spent many days in his family’s garage.
“We had a three and a half car garage when we grew up,” said Converse.
That is where his passion began.
“My first car was a ’69 Chevelle. Ever since then, it was just cars,” said Converse.
As a child, Converse’s family moved around a lot.
“I was behind academically and I just felt it wasn’t worth my time anymore,” said Converse.
So, at the age of 15, he got his first job and went to work.
Converse always intended to go back and finish high school — and had tried at one point in his adult life — but the timing wasn’t right until now.
“I felt this was a good time to do it,” said Converse.
So at 47 years old, Converse enrolled in Western Technical College’s High School Equivalency Diploma or HSED program, and learned that his years of work experience also counted toward college credits called Credits for Prior Learning.
“Fred’s a great example of somebody that has done a lot of work in his life, and so to come to college and be validated immediately that your work experience and your life experience counts,” said Chad Dull, Western’s dean of Learner Support and Transition,
After a little more than a year in Western’s program, Converse is preparing to graduate with an HSED and 11 college credits toward an automotive technician technical diploma.
“Being as old as I was … as old as I am … I didn’t think it would be worth my time to go back and learn anything,” said Converse. “I was wrong.”
That decision had a very personal impact on a couple of members of the graduating class of 2018.
“My kids actually came back to school with me,” said Converse.
His 24-year-old son and 17-year-old daughter were inspired by their father to complete high school.
“My son stood up one day and said, ‘I’m going to go back to school too, Dad,'” said Converse.
So, on Thursday, all three of them will be wearing a graduation robe.
“I feel great,” said Converse. “I can’t stop smiling about it.”
It is a sentiment he holds close as he reflects on his past to prepare for his future.
“My goal is to move up to the auto care Center manager,” said Converse.
It is a profession and a childhood passion he may never tire of.
Western Technical College will hold its GED and HSED alternative high school graduation ceremony on Thursday.
About 170 students will be honored at the ceremony.
Converse will be one of three student speakers at the event.
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