Jamie Avila

Jaime Avila dropped out of school in the 10th grade — not because of discipline issues, failing grades, or lack of ambition. He did it for his family.

“Being Hispanic here at the time was really difficult for my parents; they didn’t speak very good English,” he says. “There were a lot of furniture companies at the time and I was hearing about people making good money…I saw that my dad was struggling at work, putting all those hours in, so I just decided to go ahead and jump to it.”

Foregoing high school and his goal of following in a cousin’s footsteps to the military, Jaime went to work building furniture, sacrificing his dreams of the future to the demands of the present. A few years later, he decided to enroll in Northeast Mississippi Community College’s Adult Education program to earn a high-school-equivalency diploma. His full-time job was a major obstacle. “I would get off really late, and it was always a struggle to get off work and run up here [to the classroom],” he says. “It was very difficult asking permission to get off work early. Then work slowed down and I couldn’t really ask for the time off because they really needed people to be there. That was always the big challenge.”

This led to a piecemeal approach; he came to class when he could. It took a few years, but he never gave up. He got his diploma, and it was worth all the trouble. “It helped me look at life differently,” he says. “There is a lot more opportunity for better jobs. Before I finished the HiSET [exam] and got my diploma, I really felt like I was stuck. Now I hear about all these opportunities. And better pay. A lot better pay. That’s what’s really motivated me.”

Fresh off his success in earning his diploma, Jaime set his sights higher. Working with Northeast’s adult-ed advising staff, he decided to pursue a career as an electrician. “I’ve done a couple of construction jobs in the past, and it always caught my attention, how everything works,” he says. “I just find it amazing how a simple wire lights up a whole building.”

He began his college career during the summer, taking College Algebra and English Composition I. Tina Gambill was his English Comp instructor. “Jaime attended English Composition I under my instruction during June and July,” she says. “Even though this was a summer course, he was present for every class meeting, which I believe says so much about his dedication and perseverance. I know there were a few times when he felt discouraged for various reasons, but he was a hard worker and never complained. I was so proud to see him succeed in this course, and I am sure his attitude will lead to more successes.”

A native-born Californian who has spoken English all his life, Jaime felt confident going into English Comp. Algebra was a different story.

“I kind of restricted myself before I started [the algebra class], because I thought, ‘This is going to be so difficult.’ That was my biggest challenge throughout high school — math,” he says. “But once I got to it, [I realized that] if you really want it, you will be able to do it. The teacher was awesome, I understood everything she was talking about, and I was really surprised with my final grade. If you really pay attention and do the work, there is no challenge.” (Neuroscience supports this notion; attention is vital for adults to trigger the brain changes necessary for learning.) His algebra instructor, Bonnie Wanner, concurs that he earned his grade by learning from the past. “He knew that the mistakes he had made in his education in the past were not going to hinder him this time,” she says. “He was dedicated to succeeding this time.”

“I would love,” she says, “to have an entire classroom of Jaimes.”

But that was summer. The time commitment for his classes amounted to only a couple of hours a day, allowing him to continue working full-time. Then came the fall semester, and a full schedule, and the return of Jaime’s tug-of-war between work and school, present needs, and future ambition. This time, with the help of his own family, the future won out.

He talked to his employer about reducing his hours to allow him to attend classes, but “they couldn’t work with my schedule,” he says. “I got home and talked to my wife, and I said, ‘Either I do this now and get better, or I get stuck in the same situation where I have always been.’ And she said, ‘It’s going to be a struggle, but we can make it.’”

Jaime is a college freshman now with a full class load — studying hard, staying focused, and, as always, taking care of his family. But now in a different way. “It [attending college] is a good example for my [10-year-old] son because he’s starting to notice everything. I tell him how awesome college is, and he’s actually getting more focused. When I get home, I talk to him, and he asks, ‘How was school today? What did you do?’ He’s excited about going to school.”

As a younger man, Jaime sacrificed his dream to take care of his family: first his parents, then his wife and children. Now, with their support, he is pursuing a different dream, and perhaps an even better one — electricians, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, earn $56,900 a year on average, with a job outlook that is much higher than the average for all positions.

His advice for anyone considering doing what he has done? “It’s never too late. If you want to do it, now is the time to do it. You can go to your job every day and do what you have to do, or you can do something that you love and get paid better.”

 

Reanna Stasney

Making a Pathway to Success

Although Reanna was nervous about pursuing higher education, she was focused on obtaining her HSE and making a pathway for herself to pursue career advancement opportunities.

Reanna Stasney had never attended public school before enrolling in the NEMCC Adult Education program, but she had worked on cars. Being new to Northeast Mississippi, Stasney and her mother were extremely excited to hear about the programs offered at NEMCC.

“This was an opportunity that I could not pass up,” said Stasney.

Before completing Smart Start, she was enrolled in the WIOA Gateway Youth Program. Stasney earned essential job skills, the NCRC, resume-writing and communication skills, and much more through the Gateway program.

Because of Stasney’s hard work and dedication, she was recommended to attend the MIBEST program by her instructors, Gateway Career Specialist, and Transitions Specialist. She was accepted into MIBEST, and has taken full advantage of the program’s benefits. She earned her HSE in December 2019 and is now a full-time student at NEMCC where she majors in Auto Mechanics.

Stasney continues to work part-time while attending college to pursue her dream of becoming a mechanic. After earning her Automotive degree, she hopes to get a job working on older model vehicles.

“I am so glad that we moved to Corinth and that I walked into the NEMCC adult ed office in the fall of 2019,” says Stasney. “By enrolling at Northeast, I was able to pursue my education and career.”

Stasney is marrying her fiancé, who is also majoring in Automotive Mechanics, in the fall of 2021. They plan to pursue a career together and open their own business one day. With the dedication she has displayed thus far, working hard and staying focused through numerous obstacles, she is bound for success.

Mariano Arellano

Originally published by Jones College News and Events

ELLISVILLE – Most know Mariano Arellano in Hattiesburg as the owner of La Fiesta Brava asking on TV, “How about lunch?” Now the 54-year-old is asking, “How about a career?” After serving thousands over the last 26 years, the impact of COVID-19 forced Arellano to sell his restaurant. With more people staying home, paying the bills became overwhelming.

“I never expected to close my business like I did. I was behind in payments, and I didn’t want to put my house at risk,” said Arellano. “I spent half of my life in the restaurant business and now I feel like I lost a member of my family. I feel like I lost everything. I was very depressed.”

But before the doors closed permanently, a customer suggested Arellano should explore some options through Jones College’s Workforce College. Building things always interested the former restauranteur, so after a few phone calls, he was signed up for the welding program.

“When I got to Jones and started taking welding classes and meeting all the employees here, it seemed like every person opened a different door for me. They really helped me get out of my sadness, my depression. Now, I feel like I’m going in the right direction, thanks to everyone because I don’t know if I would have made it without them,” said Arellano.

While learning a new trade through Workforce College, welding instructor, Tracy Warden inspired Arellano to explore even more options. Arellano earned his High School diploma when he lived in Mexico in 1981, but he knew he would need his American High School Equivalency to continue his education here. In one month, Arellano earned his HSE and the Workforce Welding & Heavy Equipment Certificates. He also plans to begin classes in the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration program in August.

“My life has changed 360 degrees,” said Arellano. “In the restaurant business, it seems like there is always equipment in need of repair. I often did some troubleshooting before calling a repairman. I always wanted to do something else, mechanical or build something. Now, it’s become my new career.”

Arellano is currently working at Smith Welding in Ellisville, as part of the crew building a two-story building structure. He also has new goals on his horizon. In fact, with his Certificate in Workforce Welding & Heavy Equipment, along with his High School Equivalency diploma from Jones College, next year, Arellano said he may open another business after he earns his associate degree in Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration. For more information about Jones College’s Workforce College, click on the link: https://www.jcjc.edu/workforce.

Adoniyya Edwards

Determined to Succeed

Adoniyya Edwards enrolled in August of 2019 with the sole intention to obtain his High School Equivalency Diploma. Adoniyya worked extremely hard—spending long hours on is coursework and taking on extra homework assignments to prepare for his exams.

In February of 2021, Adoniyya reached his goal and obtained his High School Equivalency Diploma.

During his time at Pearl River Community College, he also completed a Smart Start course and received his Smart Start Credential.   

Adoniyya’s instructors had this to say:

“Adoniyya never complained about the amount of work that he needed to do, he simply smiled and said, ‘Whatever it takes.’  He was always positive and full of perseverance—charging ahead to reach his goal while cheering on his classmates to attain their goals as well.”

Adoniyya will attend college next semester and is focused on furthering his education.

 

Beth Frutal

Beth Frutal

Beth Frutal’s Journey to Success

After graduating high school with an occupational diploma, Beth Frutal aimed to earn her GED.  She began working on her high school equivalency diploma in 2017 and methodically worked through each subject saving math for last, as it was her least favorite subject.

By 2018, Beth had passed all subjects in her coursework except for math. She faced many barriers in completing her math courses—barriers that stemmed from disliking the subject and from having a troubled history with math.

“I worked tirelessly on reshaping how she viewed math,” Frutal’s instructor shared. “We made notecards with affirmations, and we wrote down her intentions. Beth came to class every day from 8 to 12 and worked diligently on learning math. We worked relentlessly for a complete school year before she was ready to take her test.”

 

In May 2019, Frutal took her exam and scored a 7 overall—only a few points shy of passing. She wasn’t deterred; she continued to study diligently and re-took her exam in June. Again, Frutal missed passing by only a few points. She was disappointed, but returned to her coursework a few months later when classes were re-opened.

“When we returned Beth came back!” Frutal’s instructor says, “She came religiously on Tuesday and Thursday nights and we worked and worked and worked. We did every kind of practice material, practice test and version of math we could find. We set our goal- take the test by October 25th.  She opted to switch from computer to paper testing. We even set up a dry run to try to eliminate anxiety issues.”

On the day of the exam, tensions were high. Frutal completed her exam on paper and then waited anxiously for her results.

“We waited and we waited and we waited for what felt like an eternity.” Frutal’s instructor says, “Every day, I had Amber check the scores.  After the 9th day we started checking scores every few hours.”

Finally, the results came in. Frutal passed! Her hard work, perseverance, and determination paid off.

Her instructor happily recalls sharing the news with Frutal:

“I could hear her family in the background screaming, ‘Hallelujah! She passed! She passed! Thank you Jesus!!!’ as she screamed ‘ I PASSSED! I PASSED!,’” Frutal’s instructor says, “Oh, it was a wonderful moment.  There are no words to describe that euphoric feeling. She was so proud of herself! She proved to herself that she could do math and in fact she could do anything she was determined to do.”

Beth Frutal’s story truly exemplifies the benefits of perseverance and the importance of supportive instructors in guiding students toward their career and educational goals.

Kaylee Ridgeway

Kaylee Ridgeway Picture

A Wonderful Opportunity

Kaylee Ridgeway speaks on her experience obtaining her High School Equivalency and pursuing her college education.

“I quit school in the tenth grade. It wasn’t a good decision for me, but I felt as if it was the best thing to do at the time,” Ridgeway says. “I needed to care for my dad who was diagnosed with cancer.”

“After he died, I wanted to get my High School Equivalency. Last year, I finally got to go back and completed all the steps to get my diploma. I passed all of my tests, and it was the best thing I ever did!” Ridgeway says.

Ridgeway is currently pursuing her college education and is on track to becoming a nurse in the Fall of 2021. She has this to say about her experience:

“I’m thankful I had this opportunity so I can do what I’ve always dreamed of doing.”

Payton Tapp

Payton Tapp

The Gateway to Success

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Payton Tapp was determined to continue and complete his education. In March of 2020, Payton began the Smart Start program at Northeast Mississippi Community College (NEMCC), but due to the pandemic, classes were suspended.

However, this didn’t deter Payton. He returned when classes resumed in September and worked diligently to complete his coursework. He was made a candidate for the Gateway program, a job skills and workforce training program, and began the process of enrollment.

He joined the program on October 6. Since his enrollment, Payton has taken advantage of the great opportunities the Gateway program has to offer.

He completed the program’s essential job skills training, obtained his National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC), and began his paid work experience internship at the Booneville Exxon—all while finishing his requirements to earn his High School Equivalency Diploma.

In a few short weeks, Payton had passed his high school equivalency exam and had fulfilled a total of 160 hours of paid work experience offered by the Gateway program. His experience prepared him for the next stage of his education: NEMCC’s Welding program.

With support from his instructors, counselors, and lessons learned, Payton was prepared for NEMCC’s Welding program and began classes in January of 2021.

He is currently completing NEMCC’s Welding program and credits his Adult Education and Gateway program instructors with the support, insight, and guidance they provided. Payton’s story proves that anything can be achieved through focus and perseverance.

If you are interested in participating in the WIOA Gateway Program, please contact 662.720.7574 for more information.

The Gateway Program is funded by the Workforce Innovation Opportunity Act (WIOA) through Northeast Mississippi Community College, The Mississippi Partnership Board and Three Rivers Planning and Development District. 

#NEMCCGateway #nemccwioagatewayyouth

#WIOA #NEMCCAE #SmartStart #NCRC

#ThisCouldBeYou #SkillUpMississippi

Brandon Denton

Brandon Denton is a shining star in my HSE program. Brandon has currently completed the following three sections of his official GED test: RLA, Science and Social Studies.

He is currently studying for his math exam and he will participate in the new Math Jump Start pilot program.  He is also a Workforce welding/MIBEST student at the AMTC campus.

Brandon’s hard work and determination make him a role model for the other HSE students in my program. He is reliable and always has a great attitude while completing his assignments and responsibilities.

I am excited to see Brandon continue to grow and reach new goals, especially when he begins college and encounters new academic coursework.

Tiffany Wilkes- HSE Instructor, Perkinston campus

Travis Davis

Travis Davis Picture

Succeeding Despite the Pandemic

 

Travis Davis was determined to continue his education despite the COVID-19 pandemic. Travis quickly enrolled at Mississippi Delta Community College (MDCC) and began his Adult Education courses on July 23, 2020, at MDCC’s Moorhead campus.

Not only was Travis able to complete his coursework online, but he also had the option of getting face-to-face instruction from his instructors.

Travis was also enrolled in Smart Start, a workforce readiness program, and learned valuable communication, time-management, and team-building skills. Through his coursework, Travis gained confidence in himself, learned valuable job-related skills, and developed a strong work ethic.

His hard work earned him a NCRC Bronze Certificate, a Smart Start Credential, and his GED. Travis is now moving toward his goal of joining the military. We are extremely proud of Travis and look forward to seeing him meet his goal and prosper in the future!

Mary Bolton

A Story of Perseverance

In 2000, Mary began working on her GED. She worked diligently, and passed her courses, but fell short, by one point, in mathematics. She continued prepping for her exam and decided to take the test again in 2014. By then, however, the exam had changed and frustrated with its new format, Mary decided to take another route for her education.

She enrolled in web-based courses and acquired an online diploma. She worked for 10 years, supporting herself and her three children, without the legitimacy of her education coming into question. However, when she decided to change careers and made strides toward becoming the cafeteria manager at her children’s school, her online diploma was not considered valid. She was given a deadline by her supervisor to have her diploma, or she would lose her position.

Mary was dismayed but was also determined. In the fall of 2019, she enrolled in AE classes and started on the HiSet track. She worked tirelessly through the semester and passed all her courses except for math. In December, Mary attended her night classes right after she finished her shift on Tuesdays and Thursdays. It was difficult for her, as she was often tired, struggled with dyslexia, and needed support for learning the primary math functions.

However, she persevered. She would often study over the weekends, communicate frequently with her instructor, and ask questions about her assignments. She was set on taking the exam the week after spring break, but due to the COVID-19 pandemic, her test date was delayed.

But, Mary continued to prep herself for the exam. She frequently called her instructor, sometimes even meeting through Facetime to discuss her math coursework. All the while, she worked a regular shift preparing hundreds of sack lunches at her children’s school.

Then, in June, she decided to take her exam. She was very nervous, and during her exam, her calculator died, only amplifying her anxiety. She didn’t pass her exam but was not deterred from trying again.

In August, she returned to her courses and continued working Tuesday and Thursday nights to improve her math skills. She worked diligently and set her sights on passing her exam in October.

In October, she was able to take her exam. It took nine days for her to receive her scores. The wait was agonizing, but, to her delight, she passed. She shared her results with her instructor who was overjoyed at the news.

Mary’s story exemplifies the benefits of hard work, perseverance, and commitment. Despite all of her adversities, anxieties, and set-backs, Mary was able to obtain her diploma, continue her career, and provide support for her family.

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