The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Going Back to School
What to expect from GED prep
Desmin Braxton

In high school I got suspended a lot. Before I knew it I was way behind in projects, credit, and homework. By the time I was 18, I was so frustrated I just stopped going to school.

For the next two years I fooled around in the street getting in trouble with my crew. I also had a job delivering medical supplies.

My grandmother and brothers kept telling me to get my high school equivalency diploma (formerly called the GED, it is now renamed TASC, which stands for Test Assessing Secondary Completion). They believed in my ability to pass.

When I was 19, I decided to enroll in the prep class, not just for me, but also for them. I knew if I didn’t get any kind of diploma my family would be disappointed. I had also grown up a lot since my high school days. Back then, all I wanted was to have fun, and I didn’t know how to deal with the demands of school. But now I felt better prepared to handle the workload.

TASC Force

I found out from my grandmother that I could sign up for TASC prep at Bronx Regional High School, not far from where I live. I started attending in September of 2013.

I liked the test prep better than high school. I enjoyed the shorter hours, which are from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. All the students were there because they wanted to learn and pass the TASC. The class only had about 14 students, which made it easier for me to pay attention. I also felt like the lessons were more understandable than in high school.

The teacher gave us progress reports every two weeks so we’d know how we were doing in our different subjects. They offered tutoring after school to help us with work we were struggling in. I liked both of my teachers; they were helpful and had cool personalities.

We were given four practice tests and prepped on how to test well. For instance, we’d be given an unannounced test about what we learned the previous day and we’d have to finish it in 30 minutes.

Before we could take the real test we also had to complete a portfolio of four projects: an essay, résumé, cover letter, and thesis statement essay. None of this was challenging for me. And I’m glad I know how to do a résumé and cover letter now since that will help me land a job in the future.

The first time we took a full-length practice test, I felt ready. I took my time because there was material I remembered learning in high school but I would have to pause to remember it. It took about five hours. The TASC has five different sections—social studies, science, math, reading, and writing. I passed all of them. That made me feel proud and confident.

image by YC-Art Dept

Four weeks later, on the day of the real test, I wasn’t nervous. When I got into the classroom I had to identify myself with my state I.D. and turn in my portfolio projects. I had to throw my phone in a big brown folder that had my name on it. The desks were in six rows, ten behind each row. Before we took the test a lady read instructions. Everybody was serious; I think that’s because, like me, the other students knew there was a lot at stake.

Once she told us to start, it was just me and the test. First was the math, which always gave me problems like trying to strike a match in the rain. The problems were more difficult on the real test than they were on the practice test.

No Longer a Quitter

Still, I completed the math, social studies, and science sections. All I had left was reading and writing, which I thought would be the easier sections for me since I’ve been writing for YCteen for four years. But the reading section had long passages and that ate up a lot of my time.

When I got into the essay section I rushed through it. To make matters worse, I wrote my whole essay on the draft paper by mistake. If you do that it doesn’t count for a score. When I realized I’d done that, I tried to write as much as I could on the right paper but I ran out of time.

I knew I had slipped up but I didn’t feel bad because I had given it my all. I left knowing I didn’t pass, but I had already made the commitment to try again.

A month later, my test scores arrived in the mail. I was proud that I’d passed the reading, social studies, and science sections. I failed the writing and math sections. Of course I was disappointed.

Now, I’m back at the TASC school taking the course over again. I’m retaking the test this month.

I quit high school because I was too young to know how important a high school diploma is to succeed in life. But I’m no longer a quitter. I’m confident I’m going to pass next time. Once I pass all sections of the TASC, I plan to get my security license to become a security guard.

Taking the TASC

TASC is free in New York; students receive their High School Equivalency Diploma once they pass. To find out more about the process including finding a prep class and testing locations go to

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