'I want to be certified ... in high demand'

CHESTER -- Keon Davis was kicked out of Chester High School in the 10th grade because he didn't show up to class on time.

Now, after a year of doing "nothing," the 17-year-old said he is trying to turn his life around.

He's taking classes at Chester's adult education center, hoping to get his GED and WorkKeys gold card, a credential that tells potential employers he has a high skill set.

Keon's incomplete education, he said, is why he believes he couldn't get a job while he was out of school. He said he didn't want to go back to Chester High because he had a bad reputation and feared people would pick on him. But he was terrified that he missed his chance to do something with his life.

"I was, like, scared that it was gonna be too late," he said. "When I turn 18, I'm grown."

So, he's here, studying at adult education. Once he earns his GED, Keon hopes to attend York Technical College and study welding.

Going to college, he said, is something that folks he knows don't emphasize. The attitude is simply "Get a job."

"Some people don't really push going to college," he said.

But not him.

"I ain't trying to live check to check," he said. "I want a trade. I want to be certified in a certain area that's in high demand."

Ron Westbrook, the director of the adult education program, said he tells students that the outside world stays outside the classroom.

"This is a new chance for you," he tells them. "The slate gets wiped clean when you walk through those doors."

In just a few months, Keon said his outlook on education has changed.

"I wasn't focused on what was important," he said. "I was focused on outside stuff. Now, I've got my priorities in order."