A New Lease on Life!
At 16 years old, Nicholas Howard remembers his life hitting “rock bottom.”
He faced bullying in high school and struggled with obsessive compulsive disorder. He had such severe anxiety that he was afraid to leave home.
“I pretty much told my mom that I was going to commit suicide if she made me go back to school.”
Nicholas spent the next seven years barely leaving his apartment.
“An average day was me just sitting around on the computer or watching television. The only time I went out was to go to appointments.”
Some of those appointments were with a case manager and therapist Nicholas worked with at the time. They both suggested he pursue his GED through Next Door’s adult education program. Nicholas gave it a try – marking a decision that ultimately led to an enormous comeback.
The Journey to a GED
Nicholas was 23 when he began his journey at Next Door. This was one of the first places he traveled to alone since dropping out of high school, and that brought a steady feel of anxiety the first few months. But as the year went on, Nicholas slowly came out of “his shell” and rekindled his love of learning.
“The staff here was very nice, very kind, and they made me feel like I belonged and like I was part of a family.”
Nicholas worked closely with Barry and Peter – Next Door’s two adult education instructors. They guided him through rounds and rounds of GED practice tests in math, science, social studies and Reading through Language Arts. Nicholas worked one-on-one with volunteer tutors at Next Door as well.
“This was one determined young man who showed up every day and gave his all to pass four GED exams,” Barry said.
Nicholas passed those exams in June of 2017 and scored high honors on two of them. Then came a day he will never forget – receiving his high school diploma during a ceremony at Milwaukee Area Technical College. It was a life-changing moment Nicholas attributes directly to Barry and Peter.
“I look at them as mentors of mine because they always kept me on the path of getting my GED and they were always reminding me, this is what you need to do and we are here to help. That support – there is nothing like it.”
College Life Begins
After conquering his GED, Nicholas decided he wanted to take his education to the next level. With help from his Next Door instructors, he prepared for the entrance exam for Milwaukee Area Technical College. He started classes there in August of 2017. In two years, Nicholas hopes to transfer to the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee to earn his bachelor’s degree.
“If all goes well, I’m thinking about getting a major in psychiatry because I’m considering becoming a therapist myself, and maybe a minor in animation.”
Nicholas’ instructors at Next Door say he’s a new man.
“He stopped retreating from social interactions and began to embrace them. Nicholas 2.0 now relishes conversation and interaction among his peers and instructors,” Peter said.
They are excited to see what lies ahead.
“Adolescent trauma that would have buried most of us was overcome by the resolve of Nicholas. Now, there’s no doubt that he will complete college and make a difference in the community,” Barry said.