Douglas “DJ” Haimerl earned his GED and proudly walked across the stage at the Blount County Adult Education graduation at William Blount High School in June.
The walk across the stage was easy compared to the legwork Haimerl put in prior to the ceremony. Haimerl, who was one of 55 graduates who participated in the ceremony, already had a 19-mile walk under his belt to finish his diploma.
The 22-year-old Ohio-native moved to Florida with his girlfriend, and then moved with her to her father’s home in Tennessee late last year. Haimerl wanted to get his Graduate Equivalency Diploma, saying, “I was tired of dead-end jobs and getting paid minimum wage, so I started working to get my GED.”
But in January, when the test was scheduled, Haimerl ended up homeless and without transportation for about week. “Things happened to where I was homeless, living on the street, and I said, ‘This is not going to stop me. I’m not going to let being homeless keep me from getting my GED.’ So I ended up walking 19 miles to Everett to take my test,” he said. “I wasn’t going to let circumstances stop me from making something out of myself.”
Unfortunately, when he got to the center, he had missed the first part of the math test. He took the rest of the test that was scheduled for that day, but was unsure about what would have to happen with the part he missed.
It was Carol Ergenbright, coordinator of Blount County Adult Education at Everett Learning Center, who helped him. “I really appreciate Carol taking time to help me,” Haimerl said. “I thought I was going to have to pay for my GED again, and she helped me get that rescheduled and helped me get a room for the night after I walked from Knoxville,” he said. “She took time from her day and could have been home with her husband to help me. It meant a lot, especially when you don’t have anybody.”
Ergenbright said the young man did very well on the test, well enough to qualify for a lottery scholarship should he decide to continue his education.
“He was pretty tired, but he did very well,” Ergenbright said.
Haimerl got into the Crossroads Transitional Living program for homeless young men. The new facility is situated beside the Blount County Children’s Home off McCammon Avenue in Maryville.
“I had a roof over my head, and they helped me get job and get into my own place,” Haimerl said.
Haimerl said he hopes to either become a sheriff’s deputy or go to college and learn a trade such as plumbing, auto mechanics or as an electrician.
Haimerl said if he can get his GED, anyone can. “I’ve been out of school five years. It might take work but do it. It is well worth it,” he said.
Ergenbright said there were 212 GED graduates during the 2009-10 school year. Fifty-five graduates participated in the spring graduation ceremony in June. Heather McClinchy was valedictorian. Blount Today photographer Leslie Karnowski was at the Blount County Adult Education graduation on June 11 at William Blount High School to capture some of excitement and pride of the graduates and their families.