GED Graduation Speaker overcomes hardships to pursue dreams

Thomas Gilbert, 53, of Cahokia didn't finish high school. He dropped out in 1977 as a junior. He was a good student, but his family needed him. His father had died and he needed to get a job to help his mother take care of his siblings.

He worked in the food service industry for 35 years and had begun taking GED classes at the SWIC Sam Wolf Granite City Campus until he was sidelined by health problems. 

A heart attack and triple bypass surgery stopped his progress, and his work in the food service industry, but not his will to earn his GED. After building his strength back up, he enrolled again in preparation classes at the East St. Louis Community College Center.

"The classes helped bring back what I did know from high school and helped me develop structure to study," said the father of seven. Earning his GED was something he'd wanted since his six sons had graduated from high school and his daughter had earned her GED.

"It was my time," he said. 

In 2013, he realized his dream. "I knew I'd passed before the letter came," he said. His mom and children were elated.

He is currently enrolled in Southwestern Illinois College and pursuing an Associate in Applied Science degree in Human Services Technology. He is preparing to become a certified drug and alcohol counselor.

For information about upcoming GED® preparation classes, visit or call 618-235-2700, ext. 5225.