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Changing the Legacy: One Clarksville Father’s Dream Soars to New Heights

October 15, 2021

Returning to school is a decision that can weigh heavily on adults. This is especially true when you never completed high school. For Will Ponder, the decision took time, but after receiving his HiSET at the Adult Education Center, he’s set his sights on the skies. Ponder now plans to continue his academic journey and pursue a degree in aviation at the Tennessee College of Applied Technology (TCAT) in Memphis. 

“You have two kinds of people,” Ponder explained when asked why people hesitate to return for their high school diploma or HiSET. “Those who are worried they’re not good enough and those who think they are too good for it.” For Will, it was refocusing on his passion, and finding motivation in changing his legacy, that finally pushed him to finish his HiSET in September 2021. 

“Initially, my education wasn’t really important,” he explains. Multiple factors and decisions led him to leave high school early, without completing his degree. After his daughter was born five years ago, he knew he had to go back to school. “My daughter is my biggest motivator,” he said.

Motivation is a journey and doesn’t always go smoothly. Ponder admitted he began taking courses at the Adult Education Center a few years ago and then stepped away. When he returned to the new location on Oak Street, he finished his courses in two months.  

The entire experience showed him a valuable life skill – patience. “Patience and sticking to it are the biggest things in school,” he said. There were many times he had to encourage himself to push through. “Not counting yourself short and putting in that extra effort, you don’t even realize how fast you’re learning something.”

For Ponder, outside distractions worked against him, but the relationships built inside the classroom were critical to his success. He credits his instructors for helping him find all of the resources available to continue to pursue his passion in aviation. From completing the FAFSA to understanding the process of TN Reconnect, Will now sees all of the available opportunities.

He’s putting his newfound skills to good use and pursuing a childhood dream in the process. Later this year, Ponder will move to Memphis to continue his schooling at TCAT. He plans to complete both the Aviation Maintenance Technology and the Avionics Maintenance Technology programs.

“I’ve always loved airplanes and helicopters. As a child, any time the military would come and have an air show, I was always into it,” he said. The interest is evident as his face lights up, explaining the different aircraft and career fields available in the industry.

“Sometimes you lose your passion a little bit when life distracts you,” he admitted. But now, with a renewed focus and his initial certification complete, Ponder is ready to reconnect.

In approximately two years, he will be able to complete the trade school programs. He will then consider an additional four-year degree in aviation. None of which was even a possibility a year ago. Now so many doors have opened, and he affirmed proudly, “No one can take your education from you.”

“My dad wasn’t successful. My mom wasn’t successful. My grandparents were. I am getting my family back on track for future generations. It feels good to change the legacy.”