Bradley Keebler, was a 15-year old freshman when he dropped out of high school. As he describes it, he chose trouble over education and that caused him to end up in juvenile jail for 4 months. Upon his release, at the age of 16, Bradley was offered the opportunity to enroll in the Wisconsin National Guard Academy. However, in order to qualify, he would need to pass his GED exams.

He tried and failed two times and was left with one last chance to succeed. Bradley now had only one choice – to find a sure way to get his high school diploma. That’s when he learned about Omega School’s free GED/HSED program for adults. While the first of his two exams went smoothly, the second test required Bradley to take several practice tests before he was ready. With encouragement and support from Omega School staff and Executive Director, Oscar Mireles, Bradley was able to pass his final test and achieve his HSED.

“It was always a good environment. It was a quiet environment — a good workplace definitely. A place away from everything.”

“At first, I would come for an hour then leave. Then Oscar pushed me to stay longer and come every day. Oscar was really what I loved about Omega,” said Keebler. When asked what he did with his degree after graduation, he replied, “I failed.” He tried his hand at a few new opportunities that didn’t pan out. One even landed him back in jail; there was a drug at his place of employment and because of Bradley’s past involvement with drugs, he ended up serving a month in jail.

When he was released from jail for the second time, Bradley decided to get serious about getting an advanced degree, so he enrolled in a small university in Fond du Lac. That too didn’t work out for him; while he said the school was good, he said it just wasn’t a good fit for him. Bradley then decided to join Job Corps and train to become a welder. Although he regrets eventually dropping out of the program which he said was a good program, personal circumstances took him to Orlando.

He had reached a point where he told himself, “I can’t fail again.” So Bradley enrolled in Orlando’s Southern Technical College and made the commitment to push himself to get to school every day. The first year he missed only a single day of classes which ended up being the only day he missed in his two years. At the end, he received an Associate’s Degree in Welding with a minor in Business and a 3.85 GPA.

After graduating, Bradley returned to Wisconsin and has been working as a contractor for Tradesmen International where he makes a very good salary and has the opportunity to work across the state. His goal is to land a traveling welder’s job where he can travel the world and advance his welding skills and really make a career of it.

Bradley says if it weren’t for the opportunity to get his degree, he thinks he’d probably be in jail. He believes that Omega School instilled in him the confidence that he could get an advanced degree if he set his sights on it. “Oscar pushed me… I know I can push myself too.”

Bradley is the first in his family to receive not only a High School Education Diploma, but an advanced degree. His advice to other high school students struggling in a traditional school setting, “a GED or HSED is always a good option if you feel like you can’t make it in the day-to-day high school environment. I’m not going to preach and say ‘stay in high school.’ If it’s not working for you, you need to go find something that will work for you. Because selling drugs and doing minimum wage jobs, that’s never going to work for you – it’s never going to be enough.”

When asked why someone should consider making a donation to support the school he said, “Omega School is helping kids get educated that don’t think that they can get educated.” That is truly a life-changing second chance for opportunity.

2018 Spelling BeeEditorial: A quarter century of leadership from Oscar Mireles