PROGRESS 2021:Reed starts job with USPS during pandemic
While Bo Reed was unemployed after he was laid off from Wal-Mart after employees were told they could leave if they had problems working there during the COVID-19 pandemic, he said — and he hadn’t wanted to bring the disease home to his family — he got his GED in July 2020. Then, he applied to work as a city carrier assistant for the United States Postal Service a week after he earned it and got the job about a month later. During the process of getting his GED, he had a baby daughter on the way, the third of Reed’s three young girls.
“That’s why I got it,” he said. “I got it to help my family. That’s basically the whole thing.”
Reed said he knew he’d need to make more than $10 or $11 an hour from whatever job he got now that he had his GED, especially since his wife didn’t work because of the cost of childcare when both parents are working away from home.
Since working for USPS required a high school degree or GED, Reed said luckily a job opened after earning his GED, which he said was perfect because it pays more than what he was making at Wal-Mart and what he made when he delivered pizzas for about eight or nine years. Also, since he had the pizza delivery background and knew he liked to deliver, he said he figured why not be a mail carrier.
It’s a stressful job working for USPS, he said. In November, he said he walked about 10 to 11 miles a day on his mail routes and had been working every day, seven days a week until dark for a couple weeks. The promotional election mail during election season came in “tons,” he said, but one thing he noticed was he delivered mail-in ballots but didn’t pick up a lot because people likely took them to the courthouse, which took some of the load off of handling mail-in ballots.
Though he didn’t know much else because he started working for USPS during the pandemic, there was the strain of not only mail-in ballots and election mail but also many packages as a result of online shopping during the pandemic. He said he’s heard stories from fellow postal service workers that working during the pandemic was like “Christmas all year” with the flood of packages. People think the job is easy, he said, but it’s not.
“My feet are torn up,” he said. “My mind hurts whenever I go home.”
But Reed said he can’t express how happy he is to have the job because of the pay bump compared to his past jobs and because, while he was unemployed, money was tight buying groceries for his family. And during the pandemic, earning his GED, having a baby girl and getting the job at USPS have been positive steps.
“It’s been the worst but the best year for me,” he said.
Getting to this part of his life was a long journey, he said. He dropped out of Boyle County High School as a senior because after his father died at 52 from a heart attack, he didn’t want to go to school anymore. He tried to get his GED a couple of times before he got it, he said, but he didn’t pass. He also was homeless for about six months about five years ago.
Then in June 2020, Beth Leahey, an instructor for the Boyle County Adult Ed/GED Program, reached out to Reed telling him since he was out of work, it was a good time to get his GED. He said he appreciates Leahey a lot because he said he wouldn’t have his GED without her, since she reached out and helped him study.
“She really does try to help people, which is great,” he said. “We need more of her around the world.”
Leahey said she knows of several other people who got their GEDs during the pandemic after they had lost their jobs, not just Reed, many of whom wanted to get their GEDs so they could get different jobs from the ones they lost. Reed was among the first GED graduates for the fiscal year, she said.
“Like a lot of people with the pandemic, they had been working and that was taking up their time, but then when they lost their jobs, then they had time to refocus and work on their GED, and I think he was in that situation,” she said.
When Reed worked toward his GED during the pandemic, he initially struggled with math on his practice tests, then performed well in math after he studied with Leahey. Leahey said prior to the pandemic, the Boyle County Adult Ed/GED Program provided classes but during the pandemic provided both virtual resources and one-on-one instruction. She said one positive thing going forward after the pandemic is that during it, adult learning programs have had statewide Zoom meetings where they have discussed what works well for them and their students, which Leahey said has allowed for more resources and perspectives in some ways.
“When we do come out of this pandemic, I think we’re only going to be stronger because we have more digital resources available, and we’ve just really been forming a statewide learning community,” she said.
She said usually GED graduates have a ceremony, but during the pandemic they haven’t been able to have ceremonies. So for graduates during the pandemic, she took photos of graduates with her mask on with graduates and their family members so they could have formal pictures documenting their graduation. She described Reed as charming and dedicated to his family, and she cited this dedication, as well desire for stability for his family, as what inspired him to get his GED at this stage of his life.
Reed’s mother, Mona Parker, said she is so proud of him for getting his GED and getting the job at USPS. She had known his time being unemployed was “really getting to him” since he was used to working. When Reed’s youngest daughter was being born, she took care of Reed’s middle child and said she’s gotten to see his youngest but hasn’t gotten to as much as she would like because of the pandemic.
“She’s a cute little thing, and I wish I could visit them more,” Parker said.
She dropped out of high school herself in 10th grade, she said, but she got her GED later on, so she always encouraged Reed to get his GED after he dropped out of school, she said. She said she is ecstatic now that he has gotten it. He’s smart, she said, and he has put pride into his job with USPS.
“He’s caring, sentimental, cares about people, helps them out, shows gratitude,” she said. “He’s obviously working hard right now.”