ELLISVILLE, MS (WDAM) - This is a news release from Jones County Junior College.
About half of the 84 eligible students completing their GED at Jones County Junior College took part in a special graduation ceremony at JCJC's Whitehead Advanced Technology Center July 20. Despite obstacles and challenges, this group of students found the inspiration they needed to begin a new journey in their lives, like Bryan Travis. The Louisiana native moved to Seminary in 2013 and had to drop out of school and work on the pipeline. After being laid off last year, he decided to go back to school and finish. Within five months, he completed the work and is proud to have his high school diploma. As a result of hi dedication, Travis earned the JCJC Foundation Inc., Scholarship as the GED student with the overall high score. He also earned another JCJC scholarship as the highest scorer from Covington County.
"I wish I had stayed in school to get my diploma but I'm glad I'm done now," said a relieved Travis. "This is another stepping stone in my life that I hope leads me to a computer programming job."
Laurel's David Cooper missed receiving his diploma last year by failing the State English Test by three-points. He said JCJC gave him a chance to see what he missed out on by earning his high school diploma and participating in the graduation ceremony.
"You can't give up," said the hopeful graphic design major at JCJC. "You have to keep trying."
Besides the students, JCJC's GED instructors had their work cut out for them according to Director of the JCJC Adult Education program, Jennifer Griffith. A change in the GED test and a change in the state curriculum translated to fewer students but a big challenge for the instructors who were trying to keep up with the changes.
"These guys are amazing!" said Griffith. Last year we had 567 GED graduates. This year we had 82 and that lets you know how talented these folks (GED graduates) are passing that GED test. It also lets you know our teachers, who rank the highest in the state among junior colleges in the number of GED completions have got it together. I'm very proud of them."
Keeping it together is not easy, said keynote speaker Rev. David Clark, who also teaches the GED classes in Greene County for JCJC. Even though these graduates accomplished something great, they are going to be tempted to "park" instead of continuing their education.
"If you sit still and find yourself not moving then you will find yourself not accomplishing anything. It doesn't matter your age. Whether you're 16 or 65, there is a place in your life and you have a purpose to fulfill. I encourage you tonight to understand that life must go on," said Rev. Clark.
The pastor of Canaan-land United Pentecostal Church in Leakesville shared he decided to go back to college with three kids and a business in limbo.
"I refused to quit," Rev. Clark shared and then challenged the audience with this final thought, "If nobody can believe in you, would please find the courage to believe in yourself."
Dylan Douglas of New Hebron was one graduate whose story of determination was shared by assistant to the president, Gwen Magee. She explained his mother had called several testing centers before she called Jones to see if someone could help her 16-year old son who had withdrawn from school. After scoring high on the pre- test, JCJC advised Douglas to take at least 12-hours of courses and then see how he would perform on the GED practice test before taking the final exam. Douglas passed everything on the first try and auditioned for the JCJC band, earning a scholarship.
"His mom let us know since he passed his GED and received the band scholarship, she had never seen her son more excited about anything other than attending graduation and starting at JCJC in the fall," said Magee. "Our program and people made a difference in his life and this family is very grateful."
Also proving they are not only courageous and determined to succeed, seven students earned a little bonus during the ceremony. Clarke County's Caleb King of Enterprise, Covington County's Bryan Travis of Seminary, Jasper County's Michael Boyd of Bay Springs, Jones County's Brittany Boleware of Ellisville, Perry County's Ashton McLain of Richton, and Smith County's Harley Jo Rhodes of Taylorsville each received a JCJC scholarship for being the highest GED scorer from each of the JCJC eight-county district. Greene County recipient and homeschool student, Terri Pittman of Leakesville has plans of majoring in pharmacy technology at JCJC, with hopes to continue her education to become a medical sonographer. She also plans to take online classes in the Hope Corps Apostolic College to utilize her training on future mission trips. Pittman said she could relate to Rev. Clarks' words of encouragement and shared her own words of advice for future, uncertain students.
"Always do your best and apply yourself. Have faith in yourself, and God will help you. Many times I felt like I couldn't do this but the Lord gave me the strength to continue," said Pittman.
After the 41 graduates received their diplomas, the VP of Student Affairs, Dr. Samuel Jones encouraged students with a "fishy" story.
"It is my hope that we're not just feeding you tonight with the GED graduation, and we're not just feeding you for a lifetime. I hope we're teaching you how to buy the pond so you can take this back to your family and your community and show them what's possible."
JCJC's GED classes for the fall semester begin Monday night, August 10 with day classes beginning Tuesday, August 11. Call 601-477-4164 for more information.