Goodwill Industries of the Valleys

“The Most Important Months of My Life”: A Teen’s Journey of Obtaining His GED at Goodwill

Eighteen-year-old Eain Lawhorn hadn’t stepped foot in a traditional classroom in almost a decade.

“The last time I went to a public school was third grade,” said Lawhorn, who’d been homeschooled with his siblings in Roanoke. “I didn’t have much going for me and wasn’t too proud of what I had managed to accomplish up till then.”

This June, Lawhorn officially became a graduate of Goodwill Industries of the Valley’s YouthBuild & GED program. Goodwill partners with local providers to offer adult students the opportunity to complete a program to earn their GED® or National External Diploma Program®.

Although Goodwill was not initially on Lawhorn’s radar, his sister filled out an application for him, forcing him out of his comfort zone and back to school this past January. But even if it wasn’t a traditional high school setting, Lawhorn still had major first-day jitters.

“I was probably the most terrified-looking child in the room,” he recalls.

Even though he had been out of traditional schooling since third grade, Lawhorn’s teacher, Victoria Fesquet, said he quickly excelled in the program, scoring advanced levels in his intake testing.

“Even though Eain wasn’t 18 yet, since he was homeschooled, we were able to start working with him immediately,” explained Fesquet. “Getting a GED is a huge undertaking for most people. It can take years. But I could tell Eain was very bright. Every time he took a test, he passed. Week after week.”

Beyond academics, Lawhorn says Fesquet’s personalized mentorship fostered a positive learning environment where his class felt empowered to help each other and grow together. His transition from being an independent learner at home to thriving in a classroom setting and opening up with his peers was an inspiration for Fesquet and others to watch.

“We specifically adapt our material in our curriculum, tailored to the specific needs of each student,” said Fesquet, who spent many years teaching in the public school system and special education programs before working at Goodwill. “I feel especially proud to work with this program because we get to help kids and young adults who fell through the cracks of public schools. They might just learn a little differently and are looking for a different approach.”

The bond formed within Lawhorn’s group at Goodwill provided a sense of community, friendship, and stability that he had missed out on during his homeschooling years. Excelling in his studies, Eain was quickly able to help other students and cheer them on.

“We [classmates] all get together and go roller skating all the time, and we’re lifelong friends now,” says Lawhorn, whose completion of the program has opened doors to his social life and new opportunities for his future. “These past months have probably been the best, most important months of my life. I have learned some skills here that I probably would have never taken the time to learn before. I have a lot of thanks to give around the people who I owe my dedication to for pulling me out of the rut I was in.”

With his GED in hand, Lawhorn is now focused on pursuing a career in tech and IT support, thanks to the skills and confidence he gained through Goodwill. His journey, from being homeschooled to joining the program at the age of 18, highlights the flexibility and effectiveness of alternative education pathways when made available for students.

“Honestly, it’s the quickest, most efficient way that I know of to get knowledge,” said Lawhorn. “They’ll set you on the right track for the rest of your life.”

To learn more about classes and career training programs at Goodwill Industries of the Valleys, visit

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