Ben Morley, of Irasburg, was 18 when he found himself a teen father. He didn't like school, and faced the surprise of having a child to support. The logical thing seemed to be to leave high school and work to support this new life that depended on him, he said.
Time wore on and Morley realized he didn't like where his life was going. Although he wasn't sure where he wanted to go, he thought having the diploma he'd forsaken before might be a start. "I saw an ad in the newspaper for Northeast Kingdom Learning Services," he said, "and I enrolled."
It took one year for Morley to finish and receive his high school diploma at last. However, that year was an eye opener he said that changed his life only second to having a son. "I found a love for learning from being there. I learned organizational skills, preparation skills. It was convenient. I could go at my own pace -- every day or once a week depending on what I was able to do. They taught me how to manage my time," he said.
Before returning to school Morley never considered going to college. He laughed as he remembered, "I didn't consider college before because, why would I? I didn't like school. I thought I wanted to go into the military and get out of here." The change came when his teachers saw how well he was doing. "I was thriving, and I loved the feeling of success -- of actually doing well. I wanted to keep feeling that. The teachers told me I should think about going to college, and for the first time it seemed like something that made sense."
With his surprising change of attitude about learning, he signed up first with Community College of Vermont and achieved a two-year degree in Criminal Justice. He moved on to Johnson State College and graduated three months ago with a bachelor's in Tourism Management. He's now working in an administrative position at Jay Peak Resort and is hoping to find an eventual position somewhere in Human Resources, sales or marketing.
Another surprise to Morley was his complete change in attitude about living in the Northeast Kingdom of Vermont. "As I said, I couldn't wait to get out of here. Now I see so many possibilities. I want to stay in the area. I'm 25-years-old now and have a six-year-old son I love. My girlfriend has a great job too. I think this is a great place to raise a family," he said.
Morley said he knows that finishing high school is the best case scenario, but he pointed out that circumstances and sometimes personality or maturity make that easier for some than others. "I'm so lucky," he said. "I have an understanding, helpful tight-knit family, but I didn't like school and I made some wrong choices. I was lucky to have another option because it changed everything. After seeing what I could accomplish there in that individualized setting, it was a slingshot to get me in the right direction."