JCJC’s Hope Wheaton selected as the MAACE Southern Region Student of the Year

Written By: Teresa McCreery
Email Address: teresa.mccreery@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2017-08-04 13:54:18

ELLISVILLE – The fulfillment of a lifelong dream became a little more special for Heidelberg’s Hope Wheaton.  At the recent Mississippi Association of Adult and Community Educators annual conference, Jones County Junior College’s Wheaton was named the “Southern Region Student of the Year.”  JCJC Adult Basic Education and EDGE instructors didn’t tell the single mother of three children, they nominated her for the honor.
 
“I was so surprised when they told me because I never win anything!” said Wheaton.  “It was an emotional day. My three kids were there and other family too. Everyone told me I couldn’t raise three girls, get them graduated and be successful, but I did.  When I could focus on my goals, I pushed through despite what people thought, and despite how I felt some days.  I couldn’t do this without the help of God.”
 
Her daughters, 23-year old twins, Jasmine and Jaricia, and 19-year old Mekijia witnessed their mother being honored at the MAACE conference in July.  She said their reaction to seeing their mother become the Southern Region Student of the Year has had far reaching effects on the family.
 
“They told me they were proud of me,” said an emotional Wheaton. “No one has ever told me that before. I finally did something that made me feel good as a single mom.  Now, my twins say they want to finish their college degrees.”
 
In July, Wheaton received her High School Equivalency Diploma after waiting more than 20 years before returning to school. She focused on getting her children through high school before she decided it was time to take care of herself. 
 
“Every time I had doubts that I could get my education, someone was there to encourage me. My teachers had faith in me when I didn’t have faith in myself.  I am so blessed to have people in my life who aren’t family encouraging me,” said the Heidelberg resident who dropped out of high school. 
 
Wheaton’s determination impressed the JCJC Adult Education Department. ABE Director, Caleb Smith said, “Once she focused on the ‘prize’ it was like she never looked back. Within five weeks of being in the classroom for the first time since she was 17, the 43-year old became a high school graduate. She passed every test she took on the first try.”   
 
Instead of procrastinating or being satisfied with her accomplishments, Wheaton has overcome the next hurdle to reach her goals by praying to get a high enough score on the ACT to enroll in the Business Office Technology program at Jones and begin classes August 21. When she finishes her college courses, the recently honored MAACE Southern Region Student of the Year wants to open a restaurant or a clothing boutique because she said, “Heidelberg needs both!”
 
As the Student of the Year, Wheaton received a $100 cash prize and a plaque. She is now qualified for an opportunity to attend the Coalition on Adult Basic Education’s Capitol Hill Day this fall in Washington, D.C. However, Wheaton shared the best reward was getting her education because it has opened more doors for her future. 

 

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