Earning GED diploma a midlife thrill for Bob Campbell


Bob Campbell drove trucks for 30 years when he was suddenly laid off last September.

Today he calls his dismissal a “blessing in disguise.”

Bob could finally earn his GED at Westbay Adult Education Academy.

On June 18, he was one of 33 Westbay students who received GED diplomas at Warwick City Hall.

Although it had been 40 years since Campbell was inside a classroom (“I was intimidated”), he enrolled despite his fear.

In January, Campbell began the GED program, studying math, reading, writing and computer skills.

“I always wanted to get my GED, because one of the worst mistakes I ever made in life was dropping out of school,” Campbell said.

At 16, Campbell quit Mt. Pleasant High School in Providence when he was in the 10th grade.  

“I was a slow learner and kept being held back in school. Instead, I learned how to drive and unload trucks. There was plenty of work,” he said.

At the beginning of his GED course, Campbell was overwhelmed.

Adult Education Academy Director Melanie LaMountain and instructors Rick Blanco and Deb DeSousa took turns encouraging Campbell, a Warwick resident and one of three 56-year-old class members.

“I didn’t know if I could do it. But the teachers and staff gave me plenty of confidence. Melanie told me age did not matter. She said this is an adult academy for adults, and there is no age limit.”

Instructor Rick Blanco encouraged Campbell as he struggled with the math portion.

“I am not good at math, but Rick told me he would make sure I would learn what I needed. He said I could do it. Rick was a mentor to me because he had the patience to teach me. He didn’t give up on me. After a while, I realized I could do it,” Campbell said.

Blanco credits Campbell’s persistence for his success. He was simply willing to do the work; he attended daily, fully engaged and determined to succeed.

“Bob had obvious gaps in math. Math was the last piece of the puzzle because he struggled with it. He had some doubts abut it, but I was convinced he would get it done. I saw how hard he worked at it. I knew his hard work would pay off,” Blanco said.

Blanco taught in inner-city schools in Central Falls for 30 years.

In 2011, he joined Westbay Adult Education Academy.

He described his time at Westbay as “the most rewarding professional experience” of his life.

“The students at Westbay realize the importance of education. They are all invested in the process,” Blanco said.  

Westbay instructors also assisted Campbell as he composed his first résumé. He said he might enroll at CCRI to study x-ray technology. 

One of the students chosen to speak at graduation, Campbell offered encouragement to others lacking a high school diploma.

“Don’t wait as long as I did to go back to school,” he said.

“Westbay’s program has given me hope and an opportunity to go on to better things. It has opened up a whole new world for me. I feel absolutely thrilled about it.”

Lauren Long is the Communications Manager for Westbay Community Action in Warwick.


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