Record number of JCJC GED graduates begin a new journey

Written By: Teresa Martin
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Date Submitted: 2012-07-25 16:36:34

ELLISVILLE –A record 507 students completed their GED at Jones County Junior College with 109 choosing to celebrate the accomplishment at a special ceremony at the college. Despite obstacles and challenges with raising a family, this group of students found the inspiration they needed to begin a new journey in their lives, like Pedro Figueroa. The Mexican immigrant moved to Laurel in 1998 and had to drop out of school to work in his father’s construction business. With his twin 12 year olds’ and wife supporting him, Figueroa earned completed the work in two months and is proud to have his high school diploma.
“I was scared to come back but I got it!” said Figueroa. “I hope my daughters will be motivated to keep going and reach their goals too. Education is important in earning better pay,” said Figueroa, who has plans to enroll in the drafting and design or electrical engineer program at JCJC. 
Ellisville’s Linda Robertson also realized education was a way to a better job and life. The 33 year old married her high school sweetheart and raised three kids, which kept her from earning her GED. Today, she is enrolled for fall classes at JCJC. 
“I told my kids they didn’t need to follow my example and drop out of school,” said Robertson. “This GED represents a new chapter in my life.”
The GED Graduation key note speaker, Loria Newsome related to her audience the trials she overcame in not only earning her GED but also her bachelors, masters and Educational Specialist degrees. 
“Circumstances caused me to be a high school dropout,” said Newsome.   Addressing the graduates she added, “The GED diploma however, can take you wherever you want to go. I eventually came to JCJC after moving to Jones County where I heard about the Displaced Homemaker’s program. I want to thank Ann Strickland, JCJC’s Displaced Homemaker Director for seeing something in me I didn’t see. She was a woman of influence and she said, ‘if I can do it, so can you.’” 
Newsome, the former South Jones Elementary school assistant principal said Strickland laid out the path for her to reach an unrealized dream within her. While studying for her GED, Newsome said she realized how her determination to get her GED influenced her children. 
“My son Ted, who is a Judge Advocate General in the U.S. Air Force, said because of me, he saw the value of education. What if I had not done this? My daughter works with the International Justice Mission helping rescue victims of slavery, sexual exploitation and other forms of violent oppression. I am very proud of them!”
Quoting the Dr. Suess book, Newsome read a portion of the book, reassuring graduates, “‘and will you succeed? Yes! You will, indeed! (98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)…. Today is your day! Your mountain is waiting. So...get on your way!’”
As an extra motivation to complete their GED, eight students received a little extra financial help by earning the top ACT score in their respective counties. Each GED high-scorer in the eight represented counties received a full tuition scholarship to JCJC. Scholarship recipients include: Clarke County-Faith Johnson; Covington County-Billy Baker; Greene Couty-Davin Clark; Jasper County-Christopher Jones; Jones County-Linda Robertson; Perry County-Jason Dolbear; Smith County-Casey Jernigan; Wayne County-John James. 
Additionally Jasper County’s Laura Lee Small was this year’s overall GED high-scorer, earning herself a $500 JCJC Foundation Inc. Scholarship and a full-tuition scholarship.   The accounting major also earned a half-tuition scholarship with her ACT score. 
“My husband encouraged me to think ahead for our family’s financial future,” said Small. “A paperwork problem prevented me from receiving my high school diploma and I never got it straightened out. This diploma will help us provide for our children in the future.”
JCJC GED director, Jennifer Griffith attributes the success of this year’s class and the growth of the program to its staff, she affectionately calls, ‘Enablers of Dreams’. “The great team of Adult Education instructors, staff and GED examiners is dedicated to helping others. Having a very supportive administration and State College Board, along with terrific support from local elected officials also makes the ability to change lives through educational advancement possible.”
Griffith noted a new GED test will be released in 2014 and any work not completed by then will not be counted towards earning the GED. The new test will also be computerized and more difficult. JCJC’s GED classes for the fall semester begin Monday, August 13. Call 601-477-4164 for more information.   


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