Adult Ed graduate proves HOPE = second chances


Meet Billy

Billy Leonard believes everyone has a hidden talent. At the age of 18, and embracing his second chance for an education, Leonard feels certain he now has the opportunity to uncover his own potential.

Growing up, Leonard said he had a love for learning; however, the obstacles he would face as he began the ninth grade would ultimately lead to his withdrawing from school.  Looking back, Leonard said it was a devastating experience and felt - at this early stage in his life - that he was out of options.

“I didn’t know there was still an option to go to college,” Leonard said. “But there was!”

With encouragement from his mother and Adult Education instructor Richard Jones, Leonard enrolled in the GED program at St. Johns River State College. After nearly a year of mentoring and individual instruction, Leonard earned his high school diploma. “Even though it took 11 months to get through the program, it was the best 11 months I ever had learning,” he said.

Leonard was encouraged to continue his education at the next level and uncover his hidden talent – helping people. He will begin SJR State’s emergency medical technician (EMT) program in January. His ultimate goal is to become a paramedic. 

In addition to the progress Leonard made in his studies, Jones said he noticed Leonard’s knack for helping others through his interactions with students and reaching out to classmates with empathy. With his high school diploma and a new career path ahead of him, Jones has confidence in Leonard’s future.

“He has a good foundation, good intentions and the power of observation. When you have a servant’s heart and a servant’s vision, there’s not much to be worried about,” Jones said.
“He’s going to do well, and the EMT program will allow him to do what comes naturally to him, which is to help people, and do it in an exciting way.“

Dean of Adult Education Melissa Perry said Leonard embodies the department’s HOPE campaign (Helping Others Progress and Engage) because he continues to progress and engage in his life as well as in others'.

“I am so proud of Billy because he has grown so much since he began the Adult Education program in terms of his confidence and as a role model for other students. I am very excited about his future, as well as how he will impact our community,” Perry said.

As Leonard moves forward, his advice to others who have dropped out of school is to not feel the devastation he once felt. “Don’t think it’s the end of the world. Find a route to go back to school and get your GED. You can still do your life; you can still go to college and live your best life,” Leonard said. “I know there are people out there who have hidden talents, and not having an education is holding them back from being something they can really be.”

You, too, can earn your GED! Start anytime of the year – whenever it is convenient for you.
Visit the Adult Ed page for details or call Call 386-312-4080.



Susan Kessler
Director of Public Relations and Publications
(386) 312-4021