CHESTER -- The motivational speaker fired off his credentials.
Boozer, brawler, drug user, drug seller, expelled from middle school four times, never saw high school.
"I can guarantee you I was worse off than any of y'all were," Chester's Billy Pressley told a handful of students Thursday in a GED class at Chester County's adult education building.
His bad-boy qualifications established, Pressley then gave the justification for his former teacher allowing him to talk to her students.
Pressley never abandoned education. He earned his GED. That enabled him to become a specialist in the U.S. Army. He'll finish his military career in February and parlay the diesel mechanics training he received there into a civilian career.
And he's 20 years old.
"Maybe y'all will listen a little bit more," he said after telling the students his age. Some of the kids listening were just three years younger.
This is where Pressley has come when he's home from the service. He comes to talk to the people who sat in the same place he did. The reason he does this, he said, is because students don't want to hear some codger preach to them. They will listen to someone like them. They will listen to Billy Pressley.
Even as a kid, Pressley admits he was a troublemaker. He frustrated his teachers, sleeping in class and never doing homework. He made the A/B honor roll once. He was in second grade, coming to school every day because he was told perfect attendance would get him a ticket to Carowinds amusement park.
But that program ended before he could go to the rides.
"I was so mad," he said. "After that, you could barely get me to go to school."
Pressley also loved to fight. He started smoking at age 9, drinking at 12 and using drugs at 13.
Although many people had written the young man off, Linda Wylie didn't. She had known Pressley since elementary school.
"I was the counselor," she said.
"And I was the bad little kid running around," Pressley added.
She later worked with Pressley when he was an alternative school student -- "Billy was a pain here also," she said -- and she encouraged him when he struggled through the adult education GED program, nearly getting kicked out.
"I could see underneath all this badness, just the potential that Billy had," she said.
"You know the saying, there's always a good woman behind you," Pressley said. "I have three good women -- Miss Wylie, my mom and my wife."
Throughout the years, some of Pressley's teachers were afraid of him. Not Wylie.
"I'm a tough little old woman," said Wylie, 60. "Billy still cares about me as much as I care about Billy. It's just a bond there because we struggled together."
Pressley earned his GED, traveling to Greenwood two days after he turned 17 to take the test. Then he joined the Army.
"I've been wanting to join the Army ever since I was 5 years old," he said. "I'd come to school in Army fatigues."
While in the Army, he took computer courses in diesel mechanics. He finished his degree in Iraq.
In August 2005, he made an impromptu visit to his former teacher's class. Wearing his green Army uniform, his appearance surprised Wylie.
"You could have knocked me over with a feather," she said.
He shared his story with her students. After that, Pressley made Wylie's classrooms a regular stop when he came home. He thought this was his way to help other people find hope.
"A lot of kids, if you just talk to them, and just be honest with them, they'll actually take that more (seriously) than you sitting here telling them, 'No, you've got to do this and you've got to do that,'" Pressley said.
That honesty was in his message Thursday morning. Wearing a black Army jacket, blue jeans, cowboy boots and sporting dyed-blonde hair, Pressley could easily mix with teenagers.
He asked them about their goals. He talked about the importance of getting a GED.
"He gave me a lot to think about," said Antonio Heath, who was in class with his brother, Theodore. Both teens saw something in the young soldier that was real, reassuring and familiar.
"I can relate to him," Theodore said.