Against all odds: Quincy woman working toward GED at 52

Twice a week, Debra meets with her tutor, Gena Awerkamp, through John Wood's Kinscherff Adult Education and Learning Center.

With the odds stacked against her, Debra Bradford's desire to overcome drugs, alcohol and a learning disability conquered them all.

It's what recently earned the John Wood Community College student a state literacy award. But as KHQA's Brooke Hasch explains, there's no award greater than what she's attempting to get now.

"You never get too old to learn. It may not be easy, but anything worth getting is worth working for," Debra said.

Nothing in life has come easy for Debra. The Houston native was born into a family of drugs and alcohol, in a neighborhood often filled with violence. Then, when she was just 15, her parents died.

"I went from one orphanage to another," Debra said.

That didn't make learning at school any easier.

"I stayed in school until I became too old. I turned 21, so I had to quit school," Debra said.

Over the next decade, things got worse.

"Back in 1991, I got shot in the back of the head. I was involved with drugs and alcohol at that time," Debra said.

Due to the traumatic brain injury, Bradford had to relearn how to read and write, but one thing she lost for good was most of her memory.

"I can't even find my family, because I don't know where they're at," Debra said.

Now living in Quincy, Debra is back on track. Her goal ... to finally earn a GED.

"I've taken 14 GEDs and failed every single one of them. It wasn't until I met Gena that I found somebody who was willing to work slow enough with me. So if I fail, she does too!"

She meets with a John Wood tutor twice a week studying math, science and literacy, and just recently, Bradford became a tutor herself, teaching reading to first graders. It's a life lesson for the books--she'd call it, "keep it simple."

"I feel like I'm going to accomplish something, If nothing else, I've at least accomplished this," Debra said.