By Cassidy Scherzer, Current Staff
Let’s do the math: When Cullen Brickner scored a perfect 200 on the General Educational Development Option II math exam, it was the highest score by a West Bend School District student in the 13 years the program has existed.
Brickner took the GED math exam Nov. 23 and received his perfect results later that day. The GED Option II Program is supplied by West Bend and other districts for high schoolers struggling to obtain enough credits for graduation. It exists to allow high school seniors to get their diploma and to graduate on their original date.
Erin Meyer, alternative education instructor, shared benefits of this program.
“The primary advantage is that students will graduate with their class and will be able to continue their education or training without delay,” Meyer said. “The students benefit from individual help in an alternative learning paradigm to large group instruction.”
The program effectively tests the individual on their ability to demonstrate understanding on the biggest takeaways of a high school education.
“It’s basically getting your high school diploma by showing that you have the knowledge and capabilities of a high school senior,” Brickner said. “It’s broken down into different parts. There is the actual test, employability skills, character development, health, the civics test, and personal finance.”
In the math portion of this test, he excelled.
“Brickner’s score is truly amazing,” Meyer said. “No other student in the 13-year history of the West Bend program has gotten a perfect math score.”
This program is flexible for each individual student and they are met with needed guidance to accomplish what is necessary for each person. Brickner expressed positive feedback about the program.
“I liked the way the teacher handled everything,” Brickner said. “For more independent students that were able to work on their own, they were given the freedom and ability to do so as long as they were getting their work done. For students that needed extra help or had questions the teachers were always there to give help as needed.”
Brickner attended Trinity Lutheran School from kindergarten to eighth grade. Trinity is a private school in West Bend with small class sizes. This provides for personal relationships with teachers and constant involvement within the same circle of individuals.
“At the time I went to school there were only about 80 kids through kindergarten to eighth grade,” Brickner said. “ My class was the largest of twelve kids in eighth grade.”
Brickner began attending West Bend West High School his ninth grade year. The drastic change in environment between these schools was challenging for him.
“I’ve had trouble focusing ever since grade school,” he said. “Since Trinity was so small and there was one on one with the teacher, my focusing issues kind of got covered up. Going into high school I was doing okay freshman year, but was kind of falling behind and not having the easiest time paying attention. Then COVID hit my sophomore year and we went online and that contributed to it. I was in bed all day and not logging in to my classes. Then junior year came around and I eventually was prescribed ADHD medication to help with my concentration but at that point I had fallen behind and stopped going to school. I was super credit deficient going into senior year and sat down to talk to my counselor where we talked about the GED Option II Program.”
Each student does not learn and/or thrive in the same environment. Like many, Brickner struggled in the learning program provided by a large school such as WBHS. Each individual may need a differing amount of guidance which is something that cannot always be customized in such a large learning school. This is why it is important that the GED Option II program exists. It gives students like Brickner the opportunity to prove their academic capability and allow them to be successful outside of the traditional path.
“When I got into (the GED program) I was on the ADHD medication and just pounding through everything quickly,” Brickner said. “It helped with the concentration issue and the flexibility of the program was a good learning strategy for me personally.”.
Bricker is an example of a student who is entirely academically capable once given the right resources to fit him personally.
This program requires each individual to take four tests: Language Arts, Social Studies, Science, and Math. Brickner passed each test and was able to earn college credit for two of them and earned a perfect score on the math exam. He was able to finish the entire program in just under two months as a result of testing out of all four subjects.
Regardless of the challenges Brickner faced while following a traditional learning path, he was able to prove his intelligence and potential due to this program. Outside of school, Brickner works as a cook and hopes to continue down this path and use his success in the program to guide him.
“Right now I’m working at (a restaurant) as a line cook,” Brickner said. “After high school I plan on using what I have learned from employability skills and character development to pursue my hopes of becoming a restaurant owner someday. I want to go to a culinary school and take business classes to hopefully make this happen.”
(Photo courtesy of Cullen Brickner.)