JCJC holds ceremony for GED graduates

Written By: Kelly Atwood
Email Address: kelly.atwood@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2013-07-29 11:53:21

     Over 6,000 students drop out of high school each year in the state of Mississippi, a statistic that made Monday (July 22) night’s GED completion ceremony at Jones County Junior College all the more important.

    In America, 39 million people do not hold a high-school diploma or GED, and without one, a person will make $10,000 less per year than someone with a GED or high school diploma.

    Those statistics were shared by Krista LeBrun, keynote speaker for the evening’s event. More than 400 students completed their GED at Jones this year, with 94 of them choosing to participate in the ceremony. LeBrun, who works as the director of eLearning at Meridian Community College, was one of those statistics, dropping out of school in the 9th grade.

     At the age of 17, after working three jobs and struggling to pay bills, she said she was tired and angry. “Tired of paying bills and never getting ahead…I wanted to prove to everyone that I could be someone, that I mattered and that I was good enough.”

    After meeting instructor Mrs. Browning Rochefort at Meridian Community College and completing her GED, LeBrun decided to continue her education, receiving her bachelors, masters and doctorate.

     “I am proud to hang my GED next to my PhD. I am proud to tell people I could not be Dr. LeBrun if it was not for Mrs. Browning, a community college and my GED,” she said.

   LeBrun explained to the students that, with their GED, they accomplished three important things. The job market is changing and people today need a high school diploma to be employed. Having a GED “opens doors to jobs, promotions and job training.”

   Secondly, a GED diploma opens doors to higher education. “Currently, only 42% of Mississippians hold an associate’s degree or higher,” she said. “Yet, by the year 2018, 63% of all jobs will require an associate’s degree or higher.”

   Thirdly, receiving a GED helps with self esteem and gives completers a sense of pride and accomplishment.  “They learn that they can aim higher than they thought possible. Dropping out of high school doesn’t have to close doors permanently in your life,” she said.

   LeBrun ended with a quote that told students they can overcome the circumstances of their lives. “You have been blessed with immeasurable power to make positive changes in your life. But you can't just wish it, you can't just hope it, you can't just want it... you have to live it, be it, do it.”

   GED student Mary Ratcliff, the student speaker for the evening, is an example of LeBrun’s message. The mother of five and grandmother of seven who lives in Stonewall but it originally from Ellisville, decided to obtain her GED in 2003, but dropped out when her husband became sick with cancer. She returned to the Clarke County GED program in 2012, completing her GED. She wanted students to know that although there are many obstacles in life, they can persevere.

   “I thank JCJC for giving us the opportunity for pursuing our education,” she said. “I had many obstacles, but I didn’t give up. I give all the glory to God. God opened the door so we can get an education. If you want to go to college, the door is open, too.”

    That sentiment was echoed by Linda Parker of Greene County, who received a Foundation Scholarship of $500 for having the highest overall score on the GED test. She also received a year’s tuition scholarship to JCJC for having the highest GED test score for Greene County.

   “It’s very exciting,” she said of her scholarships. “It makes me feel like I can accomplish anything, and it gives me the drive to go on.”

    Parker, who married young, built a family and worked at a job for 16 years before working on her GED, said she felt God was leading her to continue her education.

    “I stepped out on faith,” she said. “I decide to do my GED and the Lord has opened door after door and has blessed me beyond what I could ever think.”

   Both Parker and Racliff’s children are proud of them. Ratcliff’s daughter, Elizabeth King, is currently enrolled in the Clarke County GED program and plans to complete her GED soon.

  “I’m just proud of her,” said King about her mother. “She’s been wanting it for a long time.”

    Also that evening, Mrs. Anne Strickland was honored with the Special Recognition Award for her dedication and years of service in Adult Education. Strickland, who taught for 33 years and worked in Adult Education at Jones for 21of those years, received numerous awards for her work, including ABE-GED Teacher of the Year.

     As he presented the award, Dr. Smith said Strickland was being honored for her leadership, dedication and contributions. She developed her own materials and curriculum, creating individualized plans for her students and laying the groundwork for the Adult Education program the college has today.



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