A diploma worth the wait
Special to the Post Independent
Christopher Popish always dreamed of getting a diploma, but after dropping out of school in the ninth grade to help support his dad and brother, it never seemed a dream within reach.
On Friday, Popish, now 34, was one of 38 students to receive their High School Equivalency Diplomas among the over 200 students who graduated at the Rifle CMC ceremony.
“In September I took the test on the computer, then waited for the results,” Popish said. “I took a deep breath and looked at the screen. I saw that I’d passed and I was getting my GED. I was as excited as the days my children were born.”
Those who completed graduation requirements in the summer or fall of 2017 were eligible to participate in Friday’s ceremony. For Popish, it was a long-time coming.
Popish’s parents split up when he was a boy growing up in Fort Worth, Texas. He and his younger brother moved in with their father, and through the years Popish could see how tough it was for his dad to support both boys.
“I wanted to help my dad support my brother,” he said. So, he quit school in the ninth grade.
“In Texas during that time, there were plenty of jobs that didn’t require a high school education,” Popish said.
He did everything from cleaning toilets to cleaning pools. He worked at the Texas Motor Speedway, and later, for a trucking company loading up Humvees and other heavy equipment for the military.
“It was backbreaking work,” he said. “It was in the Mojave Desert where it was 120 degrees.”
Now living in Rifle with two children of his own – son Cal-el, 11, and daughter Zoie, 8, – Popish studied for the general education diploma (GED) test several times to get to a high school equivalency diploma. But it began to seem out of reach.
“I didn’t have the knowledge to get it done,” he said.
However, one appointment at CMC, set up by his girlfriend Sidney Potts, put Popish on track for a GED.
“Sidney gave me the drive to do it,” he said. “She came to me and said, ‘You have an appointment tomorrow to meet a lady named Cathy at CMC to get your GED,’” he said.
Cathy Slaymaker, high school equivalency lead instructor at CMC Rifle, met with Popish the next day.
Over the next several months, she worked alongside Popish every step of the way.
“Christopher was one of those students who made the work that we do in the classroom seem worthwhile,” she said. “He appreciated our guidance and was a focused and hard-working student.”
Popish would go on to pass social studies, science and language arts tests, but math alluded him. After four tries, he passed in September.
That month, Popish landed what he calls his “dream job,” working at Brenden Theatres Rifle 7. “I love movies,” he said. “I named my son after ‘Superman.’”
Dec. 15 was a day he eagerly anticipated for two reasons: “It’s graduation, and it’s opening night for the new Star Wars,” he said.