CHARLESTON — On his 46th birthday, Landau Eugene Murphy Jr. officially earned his high school diploma.
Now, saying that age is just a number, the Logan County native and former winner of “America’s Got Talent” is encouraging others to do the same.
Murphy has partnered with the West Virginia Department of Education’s Office of Adult Education to be the face of the office’s “Never Too Late to Graduate” campaign. The initiative is personal for Murphy, who went back to school and obtained his diploma last year.
“The process was weird because now you’ve got to put your mindset in high school and I’m 30 years away from that,” Murphy said. “I found it very interesting, and the more that I was in it, I loved it.”
Murphy dropped out of high school in 1992, later deciding that he wanted to go back and earn his diploma. However, because of work and other commitments, he said, he never had the time to do it.
Even after winning Season 6 of “America’s Got Talent” in 2011, Murphy, who now had a singing career to handle, found that time was still hard to find. That is, until the COVID-19 pandemic shuttered people in their homes last year, canceling Murphy’s scheduled shows in the process.
“My girlfriend was like, ‘Hey, if you really want to do this, I’ll sign you up,’ and she did. She was like ‘You have to be dedicated; I’m not going to waste this time if you’re going to go and waste my time,’ and I put in all the hours. She turned the TV off, wouldn’t let me watch SportsCenter, nothing,” Murphy said.
Murphy would take two hours of classes a day on Edgenuity.com, a provider of online and blended learning solutions, supplemented with some studying at the Ralph R. Willis Vocational Center in Logan.
The state’s adult education program offers similar features, including online distance learning, high school equivalency testing, college entrance exam test preparation and certifications for a variety of different programs, among others.
“We make our programs flexible, so that students have the ability — if they’re working during the day — they can come in, they can do distance education so that they can study in the evenings or whenever is convenient for them,” said Mendy Marshall, West Virginia Department of Education director of adult education.
Murphy said he earned his diploma in August, more than 25 years after dropping out of high school.
“I loved the fact that my brain was still capable of putting alphabets with numbers in algebra and things like that,” Murphy said. “Fractions are still the scariest thing to me in the world, but I did it.”
A picture of him donning a graduation cap and gown appears on promotional materials for the program, as well as four billboards across the state.
“When I was on ‘America’s Got Talent,’” Murphy said, “I had billboards all across the state of WV ... I think it’s a greater accomplishment, even than winning ‘America’s Got Talent’ and having those billboards, because now I get to be a representative of my state as far as education and perseverance, dedication and achieving your goals in life.”
For more information on the state’s adult education programs, visit WVAdultEd.com.