SIMI VALLEY : Dropout Makes the Grade on His Own

Kevin Watson was a high school dropout. Now, the 19-year-old Simi Valley resident is being honored by the state for his academic achievement and hopes to become a teacher or a writer one day.

Watson scored third highest in the state last year on the General Education Development test, or GED, which earned him the equivalent of a high school diploma, officials said.

In recognition, he received a plaque Wednesday from the state Department of Education and a certificate from Ventura County Supervisor Vicky Howard.

"I felt pretty good, but now I'd like to meet the first- and second-place winners to see how their scores were," Watson said.

Almost two years ago, Watson had stopped attending Apollo Continuation School after dropping out of Simi Valley High School before he completed his junior year.

He said difficulties at home caused him to feel depressed so he quit school. At one point in 1991, Watson was placed in a juvenile care facility for treatment of depression and an eating disorder, he said.

"I was truant a lot," he said. "I was totally apathetic about school."

Not wanting to compete for jobs without a diploma, Watson took the seven-hour GED test last March without enrolling in any classes to prepare. It had been months since he last attended a high school class.

He scored in the 99th percentile in four of five categories, slipping only in math where he ranked in the 91st percentile, officials said. More than 56,000 students took the test last year in California, and more than 82% passed it, officials said.

Watson said his love of reading helped him earn a high score without a full complement of high school course work.

"Once you read enough books, you pretty much can become educated in anything," Watson said.

Watson has since enrolled at Moorpark College. After a year there, he plans to transfer to a four-year university, he said. He said he dreams of becoming a writer or a teacher.

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