Tyree Fate. Photo by Carla Kucinski/GTCC
By Jana Carver
Two years ago, Tyree Fate left his home and his school, and started living on the streets. He believed he had no other choice.
To survive, he sometimes sought refuge in abandoned houses and did things that led to a few arrests — something he said he’s not proud of. What he remembers about that period of his life is how eerily quiet the empty house was and how insecure he felt at night when he was alone in the dark.
“You couldn’t see your hand in front of your face,” said Fate, 19 of High Point. “I always slept in the furthest room in the back of whatever house I slept in.”
But now, Fate is rewriting his story and leaving the past in the past.
On June 9, he will graduate with honors from Guilford Technical Community College’s General Education Development (GED) program. He will be one of 180 students receiving high school equivalency diplomas as graduates from GTCC’s GED and Adult High School programs. He’s been selected to share his inspirational story at the ceremony, and his hope, he said, is that his words will inspire his fellow graduates to realize this is just the beginning.
“You don’t have to finish the way that you started,” he said.
Numerous people have helped Fate reach this milestone. But the catalyst who set everything in motion was his girlfriend, Monica Bennett, 19, whom he met in August 2014, while he was homeless. She was the one who reunited Fate with his oldest sister who wasn’t aware her brother was living on the streets.
“She just really cared about me,” said Fate of Bennett. “She actually listened to me when I told her about the things I was going through. … She consoled me. Not too many people can do that. Not too many people can change the way I’m feeling, but she can.”
Once Fate’s sister learned of his situation, she took him in and immediately began encouraging him to get his GED.
“I moved in with her in January … and it was nonstop from there,” Fate said. “She’d say, ‘GTCC is right up the street. I’ll pay for your classes. I’ll pay for your tests.’”
But Fate was reluctant to accept her help.
“I’m a very proud person,” Fate said. “I believed that I could do anything without anybody’s help. I have always been that way.”
After much persistence, in June 2015, Fate attended GTCC’s Preparing for Success Orientation, a four-day program that introduces prospective students to standardized reading and math tests to gauge where they are academically. During orientation, Fate received the highest score possible on the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) and was deemed “GED ready.” He began the process of taking the four portions of the GED exam and passed with honors.
“To be able to do that with a GED, to graduate with honors … it lets me know that I’m not missing out on anything,” he said. “I’m still doing as good as I would have been in a regular school.”
Fate began his GTCC journey with the intention of earning his GED and getting a job, but around the time he enrolled at GTCC, he also learned he was going to be a father. That news changed everything. Fate decided he wanted more for himself so he could better provide for his family.
“My daughter was a big inspiration,” Fate said.
Fate said he wants his now two-month-old daughter, Londyn, to see him make a difference. When he first came to GTCC, he wasn’t convinced he could improve his life, until he met Tawanda Carpenter, program assistant in GTCC’s Adult Education program on the High Point campus.
“I just informed Tyree, ‘This is your life. You write your own book,” Carpenter said. “’It’s up to you. So here’s your pen. What would you like your life to be like?’”
These conversations motivated Fate.
“Just her telling me that I needed a plan — that was enough for me to change my life,” Fate said.
And when Fate hesitated taking the final portion of the GED exam — math — Betty Price-Burris, chief GED examiner at GTCC’s High Point campus, called him repeatedly, encouraging him to complete it.
“I just said, ‘Look, this is your life. … You can do what you want to. No one is holding you back but you,’” Burris said.
Fate was grateful for the support.
“That push is necessary,” he said. “It’s like, you can want it, but you have to have that push to take the initiative and take the steps necessary to get everything that you want. … Sometimes it takes somebody on the outside to give you that.”
In the fall, Fate will continue his education at GTCC and pursue an associate degree in business administration. He plans to transfer to North Carolina A&T State University to earn a bachelor’s degree in the same field. His goal is to start a trucking business and grow it into a full-scale logistics company.
“In my past, I was living in the fast lane. … Everything was based off of impulse, but my future is going to be well-planned out,” he said. “I’m not just taking random steps and hoping for the best anymore. I’m planning it out.”
To learn more about obtaining a high school equivalency diploma at GTCC, visit http://conedhome.gtcc.edu/adult-education/.
— June 9, 2016