Introduction by Jennie Martin, CVABE Teacher
I first met Jenifer [Jensy] Grant in 2004 at a friend’s birthday party in Bethel VT. Jensy was 15 then and she confided that she had never spent a single day in school but had been home-schooled all her life. A year or so later, after I started working for CVABE, I met her again and she asked if I could help her with learning the material she would need to know to get a GED.
Jensy began working with me several days a week and helping other students as an “official” CVABE volunteer. Although she had no formal schooling, Jensy was very smart and had a wide range of practical survivalist skills learned from her parents. She could drive a tractor, use a chain saw, split and stack logs, sew clothes, plant and maintain a garden, grill ribs, bake bread, make apple cider, and much, much more.
But her pride and joy was her laptop computer, digital camera, and MP3 player, which she’d bought with the money she’d earned doing carpentry with her dad the previous winter. Jensy had taught herself to use these electronic instruments and in this respect she was a typical teenager - she learned these skills very fast and was totally proficient with online networking by the time she came to CVABE. For a lonely teen, who had always been more familiar with adult company than that of other children this was an eye opening experience.
In the course of working with Jensy I learned that she had no ID. Her birth in Alaska had never been registered and she couldn’t have gone to school if she had wanted to because officially she didn’t exist! Here she explains how this affected her life, and how she resolved it and earned her GED. She turns 20 this month.
STATELESS TEEN FINALLY GETS AN ID - AND THEN HER GED
By Jenifer Sunshine Grant
I have lived an unusual - some might even say strange, life. I’ve lived in many states and in many places within those states. Two things about my life set me very much apart from the average person however:
I was home schooled K-12 and have never been to school
I grew up without ANY form of identification!
You read that correctly. Until about a year ago, I did not have any form of ID, not a birth certificate, not a social security number, nothing! I was born at home, with just my mom and dad there, in 1989, in Alaska. My parents chose not to register my birth with the state when I was born, and it never happened as I grew up either. I never had any siblings, so I was the only person I knew who had my exact situation.
Not having an ID has had a huge effect on my life! I could not do many of the things that most people take for granted: I couldn’t fly on a plane, I couldn’t have a bank account - I couldn’t even get a library card! I had to hire a lawyer in Alaska in 2006, and it took 2 years to prove I really did exist, and that I am who I say I am. These days my Social Security card, my “delayed” Birth Certificate and my Drivers License are my prized possessions, and a reminder of a hard fought battle to get them.
We moved around a lot, my parents always preferred to work for cash only, so they went where they could find work. Sometimes we shared houses with people, sometimes we rented homes and just my family lived in them. My dad does carpentry work, so often we lived in houses and he fixed them up in exchange for living there. Mom had odd jobs, but mostly stayed at home taking care of me and teaching me, though we never had regular lesson times, or curriculums.
I could not take state home schooling tests without an ID so therefore I could not graduate with a high school diploma when I was graduating age. I knew all along that I would have to take the GED test instead, and I also knew that I was not on a 12th grade education level.
So, in 2005 I sought the help of Jennie Martin and Central Vermont Basic Adult Education. Jennie normally works steadily with people so they go on to get their GED right away after taking her classes. Since I knew I still had the battle of getting my ID ahead of me, I just went to her to learn and hoped I would remember what I learned when I was finally ready to take the GED test! During the time she worked with me, I learned so much from her and even had the opportunity to volunteer for her and CVABE.
By the time I finally got my ID I had moved from Vermont to Ohio, so I went back to taking GED classes here in Ohio. I took math classes at a place called ABLE that is located near where I live. Their program is much like CVABE’s, and I quickly got my math up to a level that I felt comfortable taking the GED. I was very nervous taking the test, and I was sure I did not pass after I took it, but this spring I finally achieved one of my final goals, I now have my GED!
No matter what your story is, or what obstacles lay in your path, you can take and pass the GED test, or do anything else you need to do. I was often very depressed when I kept hitting walls when I was working on my ID, but I knew I had to keep going and it did pay off. I also often felt like I could not learn the things I needed to know to pass the GED test, but I was wrong, I could learn, and I did. So can anyone - you just have to try, and try, and try again!