From GED to PhD: ACTC alum finds better life after struggle
June 14, 2022
ASHLAND, Ky. – High school dropout. Undiagnosed mental illness. Drug user. Divorced. Homeless. Convicted felon.
These are just a few of the ways Anthony Kaitis described himself prior to the day he made the decision to turn his life around.
“Upon my release from prison in 2007, the only thing I was sure of was my desire to live a different life,” Kaitis said as he reflects on his battle with drugs and the choices he made that led to his time in prison.
He says he was able to quit drugs for good in 2009 after entering a halfway house. The same year, he gained custody of his twelve-year-old daughter.
“Realizing that I was going to need help being a father, I talked to my boss at the time into letting me work from home, and I relocated to Kentucky where grandparents, uncles and aunts waited, eager to help me be a father of a teenager,” Kaitis said.
Two years later, he decided to take the GED exam at Ashland Community and Technical College, because he wanted to prove to himself that he was capable of doing more.
“I came back the second day, and the retired schoolteacher who ran the GED test locked her hand around my wrist, palpably dragging me down the halls,” he said. She was all of 100 pounds at best and I was 6' 3” and 275 pounds, but unable to speak or protest, because I was certain that they had found out I was a felon, and she was escorting me from campus,”
He added, “We, however, glided past the exit, and she took me to registration. Finally, I asked, ‘Where are we going?’ and she giggled and replied, ‘you didn't miss one question on the science and only one on the math. You are registering for college.’”
He recalls explaining his history to her, and to his surprise, she still strongly encouraged him to apply to be a student at ACTC and to register for classes.
“Every class I took at ACTC got my best effort, so the day they realized who they had let in, I could at least point to all my efforts in college,” he said.
However, Kaitis said that day never came. Instead, as a student at ACTC, he received multiple scholarships, a tutoring position with Student Support Service, and full-ride scholarship offers to three different universities after he graduated. He graduated from ACTC in 2014 with an Associate of Science.
He transferred to Berea College, studying Math and Psychology. After graduating in 2017, he pursued a Master of Arts in Education from Western Kentucky University.
He continued to serve as a tutor at ACTC while he completed those programs.
“To say that ACTC and SSS in particular nurtured, supported, cajoled, and even lectured me into succeeding whenever I needed it would be a gross understatement,” Kaitis said.
He is currently working toward a PhD from the University of Kentucky, taking classes online while teaching high school math at a private school for autistic students, and statistics at a nursing college, both in Arizona, where he currently resides.
“Teaching every day has shown me that is where my passions lie. I never want to give up being in the classroom,” he said. “When ACTC says they change lives, remember my name. If anyone says they aren't effective, send them my way.”