Correll finds support/motivation through GED program

Gracie Correll speak
Friday, March 4, 2022

It’s easy to get off course in life.

Gracie Correll can attest to that. When her father’s health took a turn for the worse, Correll’s world stopped. Moving forward again took a team effort and strength from an unexpected source.

Homeschooling in the Sandhills

Correll grew up on a ranch near Ringgold. She attended Stapleton Elementary School in Stapleton through second grade, was then homeschooled for a couple years and finished fourth through sixth grades at McPherson County Schools in Tryon where her mom, Julie Correll, was a teacher.

Beginning her seventh-grade year, Gracie’s family made the decision to homeschool her and her sisters through high school. The family business of training and showing cutting horses included travel all over the U.S. at different times of the year. The flexibility of homeschooling allowed Gracie and her sisters to be part of the business - competing and making memories.

It worked well until her junior year.

That’s when her father, Terry Correll, had a heart attack, and with his care and recovery involved and his inability to continue training, Gracie took on more responsibilities and let her schooling take a back seat.

“I didn’t keep up with my studies very well,” Gracie said. “I just did a little bit here and there. The gal in charge of the private homeschool academy I was enrolled in called and said I needed to decide if I was going to finish my education or not. She said if I didn’t get my diploma, I wouldn’t be successful in life – that a GED was failing, and that I wouldn’t be able to get a job because no one hires someone with a GED. When I got off the call, I was devastated and crying.”

Correll Family

Gracie Correll’s family pictured back row, left to right: Gracie, Faith and Julie Correll. Pictured front row, left to right: Hope and Terry Correll.

Gracie’s parents rallied around her.

“My dad told me that wasn’t true – that a piece of paper from a high school wasn’t my only option for being successful,” Gracie said. “He knew a lot of friends and family who had gone on to find success after getting their GEDs, including my uncle.”

Despite the encouragement, Gracie struggled with the fact that getting a GED was not what she had envisioned for herself. When it came right down to it, she wasn’t really sure what she wanted for her life.

“My mom had 90 hours toward her doctorate in education, and her father had a degree in accounting. So, I had thought about college, but I didn’t know what I wanted to go to college for,” Gracie said. “I didn’t want to go just to go.”

While she was taking time to figure it out, Terry was diagnosed with an aggressive form of cancer.

The time that Gracie had to complete her high school graduation requirements was ticking away. Her confidence dropped, and it didn’t go unnoticed.

Finding direction

Gracie’s parents decided it was time to have a serious conversation with her. Gracie’s younger sister, Faith, had just taken the ACT and was looking ahead to college. Terry and Julie thought the timing might be right for Gracie to pursue a GED.

“I remember hearing them talk about the ACT and how there were check mark boxes asking for the parents’ highest level of education,” Gracie said. “It occurred to me that when I had kids they would be marking the highest level of education box for ‘no high school diploma’ for their mother. That realization was pivotal. It wasn’t okay with me. I was still a little reluctant, but my dad made a call, and next thing I knew, I was part of the GED program at North Platte Community College.”

The GED test consists of four subjects, divided into separate exams: Mathematical Reasoning, Reasoning Through Language Arts, Social Studies and Science.

“It was an hour drive one-way, traveling to the college to take the tests,” Gracie said. “I just wanted to get my first test over with. So, I enrolled in August of 2019, took the social studies test in October and passed. From there, the Adult Education staff set me up with a more detailed schedule. We decided I would work on science next, but by then my dad’s cancer was progressing so fast, and I just wanted to spend all the time I could with him. I took the free study materials, went home to be with him and didn’t return for two months.”

It was a pattern that would continue for a year.

“With so much on my mind, I just kind of stumbled along with my studies,” Gracie said. “I would take a test, wait a couple months then take another one.”

However, as her father’s cancer progressed, Gracie found herself wanting to earn her GED before her father passed away. She began driving to the college more frequently, sometimes two to three times per week. Toward the end, it became a place of solace and a much needed routine.

“I love the GED system NPCC has in place,” Gracie said. “[Renee Miller, Adult Education instructor, and Robin Rankin, director of Adult Education and ADA] were there for me every step of the way. I explained to them what was going on at home, and they helped me come up with a plan. If I went a week without talking to them, they did follow up calls to encourage me to keep going. They were more than just instructors – they took the time to find out about me and care about me. That positive environment was exactly what I needed.”

The Adult Education classroom provided her not only with resources and mentorship, but also with a quiet, consistent workspace to study in – away from the distractions of everyday life.

“I finished my last exam on Aug. 26, 2020, and my dad passed Sept. 19,” Gracie said. “I’m so glad he was able to see my accomplishment since he had been such a huge supporter.”

gracie correll ged certificate

Gracie Correll celebrates with cake after earning a GED through North Platte Community College.

Gracie was 20 by the time she earned her GED, but she still wasn’t sure college was the right fit for her.

“Renee recommended I take the placement exam whether I decided to go to college or not,” Gracie said. “I ended up passing all sections and got a perfect score in English.”

That got the ball rolling.

A new chapter

“The fact that I never really completed high school was a big mental roadblock for me,” Gracie said. “Even though I knew it wasn’t true, I felt as though I wasn’t smart. I had already been successful as an entrepreneur, starting a health and wellness business and photography business, but after a rough year and losing my dad, I was in a rut. When I’m in a rut, it’s usually a good time to try something out of my comfort zone.”

For her, that meant enrolling in the graphic design program at NPCC.

“I had earned quite a few scholarships through the cutting horse associations, and a GED scholarship, and wanted to use them before they expired,” Gracie said. “I love graphic design and have been creating content for small business owners for a while. I wanted to get better at that and eventually branch into designing livestock sale catalogs.”  

Gracie and Renee

Renee Miller, Adult Education instructor for North Platte Community College, stands next to Gracie Correll. Miller helped Correll earn a GED.

The year after her father died, Gracie began taking classes at NPCC alongside Faith. Both made it onto the President’s List their first semester.

Faith, who graduated from McPherson County High School and received a full ride to NPCC, is working toward a business administration degree. Gracie is on track to earn an Associate of Applied Science degree in Graphic Design/Visual Communications.

“I just needed a kick in the butt to get going again,” Gracie said. “I have to be working for something because if I’m not constantly driving forward, I get off track. NPCC and the GED program were big confidence boosters at a time when I needed it most. Thanks to them, I now have the motivation, confidence and tools to look ahead, plan my future and successfully walk into it without regret.”