In July 2017 when the UPWARD ACADEMY PROGRAM launched in my plant in Van Buren, Arkansas, I signed up for English as a Second Language. I’ve worked for Tyson for 19 years, and even though I already spoke English, I knew I could do better. I wanted to be more proficient in my job and learn to say the right words.

When I took that first class, it sparked something. I started thinking about what else I could take. When I began maxing out my options with Upward Academy, I enrolled for classes at the Crawford County Adult Education Center (AEC).

Now every morning after I drop my kids off for school, I go to the AEC for classes; then head to the plant for Upward Academy classes before my shift starts. After work, I go home to help my kids with homework, and then I study some more until bedtime.

It hasn’t been easy. In the beginning I had trouble staying awake because I was used to sleeping in. But now I use that time studying, and the extra hours have paid off.

So far I’ve finished my ESL classes. I’ve earned my GED. I’ve also earned a silver-level NATIONAL CAREER READINESS CERTIFICATE and two different ARKANSAS WAGE CERTIFICATES. I’m currently studying to take my U.S. Citizenship test, and I’ve enrolled in college. For now I’m planning to get the basics out of the way before I decide exactly what I want to major in. With every class I take, I find out just how much more I need to learn.

As a single father of four girls, ages 22, 21, and twins age 7, I’m trying to set a good example. I want them to learn that studying and learning never ends. My class time is already helping me keep them on track. Now I can check their homework and know whether they’re doing it right. And they focus more on their homework because they know I’m going to be checking their work.

After I earned my GED, some other students at the AEC told me I inspired them to work harder. They saw my language barrier and said, ‘If William can do it, I can do it.’ And now they’ve earned their GED, too. I’m happy to know that I’m setting a good example not just for my daughters, but for other students, as well.

Sometimes you can have school in the back of your mind, but way back. The fact that Tyson is offering team members the chance to take free classes through Upward Academy is a great thing.

For those of you who may be thinking about furthering your education, no matter your age or situation, I’d say don’t doubt yourself. If you want to get better in life, you need to study. There’s so much to learn.

Pallet Jack Driver (Van Buren, AR) at