Like many of his childhood friends, Dan Pokorny left high school early and went right to work. It was not until after he retired when he realized just how important having a high school diploma can be.
Pokorny (Du Bois), 69, said he recently applied for a part-time job at a local business to keep himself busy for the winter. However, he was told by company representatives that they would not hire anyone who did not have a high school diploma or GED.
Pokorny’s daughter heard the news and began calling around about sending her father back to the classroom. She found Rend Lake College’s Adult Education and Family Literacy Department, and soon Pokorny was hitting the books with a group of other GED students at the RLC MarketPlace in Mt. Vernon. Pokorny joked that he had the distinction of being the senior among the group.
He recalled being asked for his Social Security number and said he had not brought his card with him. He replied, “I can show you my MediCare card, though.”
Getting back in the swing of school was not easy, Pokorny said. After being in class for a couple of weeks, the instructors began asking him to write essays. The writing was difficult for him, and he began to think it was not worth the effort, so he did not return to class.
However, Yvonne Hallam, Workforce Coordinator with the Adult Ed program, had other ideas. She called Pokorny and convinced him to keep trying, and Pokorny returned to class.
“It’s amazing how things come back to you,” said Pokorny. He singled out Hallam and math tutor Yaro Hospadarsky for their help in guiding him through the classes.
Pokorny took the GED test on Feb. 22. When the results showed up in the mail a few weeks later, he was not sure what to expect.
“I was a little leery of opening that envelope,” said Pokorny. “But I did better than I expected.”
Pokorny said he may use his GED to find a job next winter. “Now that I’ve got it, I’m pretty proud of it. It’s an experience and once you accomplish it, it’s something to be proud of,” he said.
He also met another goal in the process – to earn his GED before he turns 70 in June.
Pokorny left high school in the 11th grade and went to work for St. Louis Spring Co., which made and repaired springs for the trucking industry. Pokorny drove for the company and eventually was named general manager of the small business, and stayed there until his retirement.
Pokorny and his wife Barb (who will celebrate 50 years of marriage in September) have six children: Barbara Ann, Cathy, Margie, Don Jr., Tom and Donna.