Ervin Briggs

Ervin Briggs was born January 4, 1951, in the small town of Slaten, Mississippi, located in Marshall County. Growing up in a family of ten children, he was the second oldest of five sisters and four brothers.  At an early age, Mr. Briggs’s parents separated.  He was left with being the sole provider for his mom and siblings.  He and his family suffered tremendous financial and emotional hardships.  The pressure of school and work became too much for Ervin, and he dropped out of school in the seventh grade to work different jobs.  During his teenage years, he worked at a local cafeteria.

For most of his adult years, Mr. Briggs worked with Bryce Corporation and eventually retired from Bryce.   He has been married to Joyce Smith-Briggs for thirty years.   What inspired him to get his HSE was the day his wife received her high school diploma.  He made a vow that he would work toward achieving his academic goals.  Mr. Briggs stated that he had been an adult education student for many years, but he never gave up on his dream of earning his diploma.

Today, Mr. Ervin Briggs is a graduate of the Northwest Mississippi Community College Adult Education Program, and he plans to attend NWCC to get his HVAC certification.  Hats off to Ervin Briggs for a job well done!

Lee’Darrion McDougle

Lee’Darrion McDougle made his decision to join the military in a round-about way. He finished high school with a certificate of attendance, and he found a job soon after at Southern Hens. He decided quickly that wasn’t the path for him and moved on to a job at Howard Industries where some of his co-workers discussed their plans with him about joining the Army.

“They talked about benefits like the military paying for college, teaching you a trade, and letting you travel the world. That sounded like a good path for me, too!” he said.

Those guys were interested in the Army, one of McDougle’s old high school teachers had been in the Air Force, and he spoke with a former Navy sailor after he decided the military was the right route for him, but he ultimately decided that the Marines was the branch he would like to join. “The Marines take a lot of pride in being a Marine. Plus, I like the feeling they promote of being a family,” said McDougle.

The next step Lee’Darrion took to accomplish this goal that he had set for himself was to check in with his old high school counselor to ask her where to begin. He sought out a Marine recruiter online, and his counselor let him know that he had to have a high school diploma or GED to join the military. That is when she directed him to the Wayne County location of the Jones College Adult Education program.

There, he was able to participate in the Out of School Youth program, which allowed him to receive soft skills training through a Smart Start class. That program also helped him to get a job at the Samaritan’s Closet while he was working on his High School Equivalency. Lee’Darrion first thought it would be a quick, one to two-month process to get his GED, but he remained in the program a little over a year. “I don’t mind the hard work. I like a challenge, and this program really made me push myself. I think it has helped prepare me to take on the challenge of joining the military!” said McDougle.

Things moved quickly once Lee’Darrion got the news he had passed the final portion of the HISET exam on March 1. He contacted his recruiter and attended a two-day event at a Military Entrance Processing Station. There he completed the ASVAB, underwent a physical, submitted paperwork, and was sworn in. He also got his ship date for basic training, which was originally set for April but was bumped up to March 14th at Lee’Darrion’s request.

When asked about his plans for the future, McDougle said there were a lot of options to consider. “I’m not sure if I will make a career out of the military or just serve my four years. I’m interested in possibly becoming an entrepreneur or taking advantage of the military offering to pay for my college!”

All in all, Lee’Darrion feels like the Jones College Adult Education program has been very beneficial to him, and he is thankful for all of the support that was shown to him by the staff. Whether it was Ms. Curly and Ms. Courtney smiling and speaking to him in the mornings, Mr. Reed helping him get the job at the Samaritan’s Closet, or Ms. Carla teaching him how to write an essay to pass the HSE, he said they were all “encouraging and helpful.”

To other people who might find themselves in Lee’Darrion’s shoes, he said, “If you really want it, you’ll have it. Keep pushing. Pray that God will help you, and if that’s what He wants you to do—you’ve got no choice but to do it. It’ll pay off. It paid off for me!”

We at the Jones Adult Education program are wishing Lee’Darrion luck as he leaves for Parris Island, SC on Monday, March 14. We cannot wait to celebrate even more success with you as you embark on your future as a Marine!

 

Amanda Gilbert

This is a true testament to how amazing teachers impact lives and how our words mean so much. Amanda spent her life believing that she was stupid and would never become anything simply because someone important told her that while she was still in school. That mindset has followed her all these years later-until she walked through the doors of the Jones College Clarke County Center. It took one program, some positive speaking, and a little motivation to change her outlook on life, and more importantly, on herself.

Amanda Gilbert walked into the center with her niece, having no intentions of registering for class. After hearing Amanda’s story of dropping out of high school and failing at multiple attempts with other GED programs, she was encouraged by our staff to give it one more shot. Amanda signed up with the thought, “Why not? If I’m in the class, I can ensure my niece is coming, and what do I have to lose?” Her high intake scores landed her a spot in the MIBEST program, and we watched Amanda grow in confidence as she completed the Adult Ed program in only one month. Amanda graduated in July 2021 and went on to receive an Academic Distinction Scholarship for her ACT score of 25. She became an official Jones Bobcat in August and began working towards her AAS in Business Office Technology. Amanda is currently finishing up the first half of her degree and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Amanda currently has a 4.0GPA. Right now, she is undecided on what she will do once she receives her degree as “being a member of the Honor Society has presented some opportunities that she never thought possible.” She remains humble through her experiences and accomplishments as she continues to surpass all expectations.

Dekarr Clayton

Dekarr Clayton was an extraordinary student! She did her absolute best in all of her work. I loved how she took the time out of her day to excel in her studies by completing homework assignments. Even throughout this COVID 19 Pandemic, she attended the online Zoom classes to prepare for her final test section. It has been a pleasure to have her as a student. She has confronted numerous challenging difficulties during her time in the Coahoma Community College Adult Basic Education class. However, she overcame every obstacle. She has persistently been a top-notch pupil regardless of what she faces. Her character exemplifies strength, leadership, and determination. She has effectively post-tested in the Test of Adult Basic Education (TABE) and advanced two grade levels. She obtained her High School Equivalency Diploma in July 2021. Since then, Dekarr has been promoted on her job. She plans on attending the Coahoma Community College Nursing Program. I am so proud of her success and wish her the best in her future endeavors.

Instructor: Lawanda Clay

Shanice Gardner

Shanice started attending our in-person classes at Northwest. On the first day of class, they did a getting to know you introduction. One of the things she shared with the class was that she works two jobs, has two children and has a dog. Although she enjoyed going into the classroom, it started to get overwhelming because she had to wake up earlier to take her children to school before going to class. One day, her instructor encouraged her to enroll in eDULT.

She was enrolled in Reading and Science. Shanice stated, “online learning is totally different than in-person learning” and was frustrated in the beginning. The lack of help at home added new challenges, but she said, “I didn’t come this far to quit, and quitting is not an option”. She was still determined to not like it and wanted to go back to in-person learning.  Shanice decided to give it a chance and began to focus. Soon after, she found herself eager to go to lunch to complete her assignments while she was at work. One of her favorite things about eDULT was getting actual grades like you would in a real classroom. That made Shanice want to do her best and get good grades. Now, Shanice has completed her high school equivalency!

Felicia Younger

The first time Felicia took the Math portion of the HiSET, she was below passing by one point and ended up scoring below passing 5 times prior to enrolling in eDULT. The staff at Hinds would not let her give up. After the first class meeting, Felicia said, “I’m not the only one who struggles with math. There are many people across the state who have the same issue as I do.” That was the motivation she needed to persevere. Felicia completed the program, increased her TABE score by 46 points, and earned an MSG. She also was able to pass the math portion and earn her HSE. Now Felicia is enrolled in Welding.

Kayleigh Grimes

“I’d rather have options.”

Self-reliant adult-ed grad makes her own way at an early age.

 

Kayleigh Grimes finished her first semester of college recently. At age 16. Not bad for someone who didn’t finish high school.

“The day I had my accident I was already talking to them about homeschool,” she says of her withdrawal meeting with the high school she attended, soon after a car wreck that kept her out of classes for three months—the lethal blow to her high-school career. “I have really bad depression and anxiety, and so it’s like a constant battle.”

That battle, and others—growing up in several different towns, falling behind in school due to a horrific accident, working full-time at a young age—might have left anyone else dejected. Kayleigh only became more determined, more self-reliant. “I don’t think about anybody else when I see my future, because everybody leaves at one point in your life,” she says. While this might seem pessimistic, especially for a teenager, Kayleigh’s situation is different, and therefore her approach is different. She has had to figure out a lot on her own, through life experience.

Take her experience in earning her high-school-equivalency diploma through Northeast Mississippi Community College. “It [enrolling in the program] wasn’t that bad because I had a friend doing it with me. It was something we both agreed to do. Then after two days she split,” Kayleigh says, laughing.

Left on her own, Kayleigh trudged on, despite her challenges. According to Deanne Droke, one of Kayleigh’s instructors, “Kayleigh didn’t attend regular classes because of how much she had to work, but when she came in the afternoons and evenings, she was always ready to work. She always had a smile on her face no matter what stresses were going on in her life. She was a treasure.”

Once Kayleigh got started, the pieces fell into place rather quickly. She completed the short work-skills curriculum Smart Start, blazed through the subject-matter test preparation, aced the HiSET (the equivalent of the GED test in Mississippi), and set her sights on college (again, at age sixteen). Balancing her work and school schedule with her specific housing challenges says Droke, “She stayed with whoever let her lay her head down at their home.”

“The people I lived with liked to stay out and do stuff. And then there was me, just wanting to go home and go to bed—and at the same time, you know, you only live once.” Kayleigh moved forward, working with Northeast’s adult education and college-faculty advising staff to enroll in college. “College is something I’ve always wanted to experience,” she says, “because I’ve never wanted to be stuck in this town—or state, for that matter. I know how to get out without a college degree, but I’d rather have options.”

Her first semester behind her, now awaiting the start of her second, still working full-time, she looks forward to her future while dealing with the challenge of her busy life—any way she can. “Trying to keep my grades up on top of the stress and working full-time—it gets difficult to juggle,” she says. “I think the main thing [that keeps me going] is…I didn’t know Northeast had a Starbucks!”

Besides caffeine and sheer grit, Kayleigh relies on another time-honored method for navigating life. “I write all the time. I’m really bad at poetry, but I still attempt it,” she says. “Sometimes I just write down my thoughts.”

What inspires her? “I like poetry and I like quotes. That’s why everybody’s on Tik Tok now and I’m still on Pinterest from like 3 years ago.”

“When I was younger,” she says (again: sixteen), “I tried to write a book. I wrote half of it, and then found something else to spend my time on.” Understandable; she was in “probably the ninth grade”.

And what does she write now, at the ripe old age of barely seventeen? “I normally write fiction, fantasy—where I would like to see myself. With hardships that you must get through. Nothing like Cinderella.”

***

Through all the moving around, getting knocked down, getting back up; feeling her way through her young, prematurely mature life, Kayleigh keeps her perspective. She knows what she wants and needs, what she plans for her future. “I want to have the kind of money that my family never had—to be financially stable,” she says, though that’s not all that success means to her. “It means you get a better life than you had when you were younger, and you get to a point in your life where you say, ‘OK, I’m fine with living like this—not moving around all the time; being somewhere that you want to be that makes you happy; not having to think about, ‘Well, what am I gonna do tomorrow?’”

It sounds cliche to say that she lives for today. But Kayleigh seems to know that that’s the only day anyone is ever assured of. And the only time anyone can learn anything. She learns and grows, now, for a better future. That is something anyone, of any age, can learn from.

Osagie “Michael” Momoh

When Osagie “Michael” Momoh arrived in the United States in 2017, he knew he wanted to further his education. In Nigeria, Africa, he had completed an Associate’s degree in Business Management.  However, that was not beneficial for him in America.  He began looking online at schooling options only to find out that he would need a High School Equivalency (HSE).  That’s when Michael contacted East Mississippi Community College’s Adult Education Program. Although he worked a full-time job, the Launch Pad’s flexible classes allowed him the opportunity to continue working while pursuing his HSE.  In December 2020, Michael not only completed his HSE diploma, but he also completed the Smart Start Curriculum, a job readiness component, and earned a Silver on the ACT-WorkKeys® National Career Readiness Certificate.  For Michael, obtaining his HSE and enrolling in EMCC’s Computer Networking Program in spring 2021 was a dream come true.

Michael has completed two full semesters in the computer networking program, all while maintaining a full-time job.

Michael has previously stated, “having to start over with my education was a challenge. Enrolling in the Launch Pad was a great experience for me as I had been out of school for a long time.  My thought was that I would only focus on getting my HSE, but taking the Smart Start class, earning my WorkKeys®, and enrolling in a post-secondary program has helped me prepare for a career and provide for my family.”

Michael was recognized in October 2021 by 2nd Chance MS for his academic success.

Candice Hammond

Candice Hammond’s life story is similar to many Jackson County Drug Court participants; however, what sets her apart is her determination and commitment to turning her life around. Candice dropped out of school in the 8th grade and soon turned to drugs in the face of obstacles and adversity. “I thought this was my path in life. I was in this cycle of addiction, and knew that eventually, this choice would lead to my death.” The opportunity to participate in the Jackson County Drug Court system changed her path and gave her the second chance she needed to turn her life around.

Candice was referred to the Adult Education program at the Pascagoula Adult Learning Center through the Jackson County Drug Court and enrolled in our High School Equivalency program in September of 2019. Initially, her lack of confidence and fear of failure hindered her progress; however, Candice soon realized that failure was not an option! Candice is quick to credit the support of her family, especially her mother; a tough Circuit Court Judge who pushed her to earn her diploma and workforce credentials; the caseworkers and support counselors of the 19th Circuit Court District; the faculty and staff of the Pascagoula Adult Learning Center; and the support and words of encouragement offered by her fellow drug court participants for her success. “I could not have finished this program without the support of individuals who believed in me, pushed me to my limits, offered words of encouragement, and continue to support me.” Through hard work, perseverance, and determination Candice earned her High School Equivalency Diploma in March 2021. Candice also enrolled in our workforce and employability classes and earned both an MS Smart Start Workforce Credential and a National Career Readiness Credential, Silver Level in 2021. While attending the Jackson County Reentry Job Fair in April 2021, Candice successfully gained employment at one of the local casinos.

Candice’s story of accomplishment can serve as an example for all Opioid Grant participants. Her life journey continues with a newfound confidence that there are better days ahead and the knowledge that she has acquired the skills she needs to be a productive member of the Jackson County community.

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.”

 

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