Kati Morgan

Focused on Success

Kati Morgan enrolled in NEMCC’s Adult Education program in 2019 after dropping out of high school a few years earlier due to unforeseen circumstances.

In October 2019, she earned her high-school-equivalency diploma. College and Career Navigator Charlie Smart worked to help her enroll in college for the following semester, but it didn’t work out.

“She was working both a full-time and a part-time job, in addition to being a single mother, and she just didn’t have the time,” Smart said. “I always stress to students the importance of training as a way to a better life, but Kati had two jobs and two kids. She wanted to get started with college, she understood the importance and was excited about it, but in the end, she just had to wait.”

A couple of months later, a phone call gave Smart the opening he needed.

“I called her about a completely different matter, and she mentioned that she thought she was ready to enroll for the fall semester. Her part-time job had become her full-time job, and she had left the other job, so it seemed like the perfect time to enroll and work toward her goal of creating a better life for her and her family by going to college. She felt that maybe the time was right.”

After meeting with Smart to complete the enrollment steps, Morgan was introduced to Taylor Johnson, MIBEST program coordinator.

“Kati is such a great student,” said Johnson. “She wanted to go to college, but still had a few doubts as she had never been enrolled in college. We discussed the MIBEST program and the student support that was offered through the program.” “Although she had the extra time to enroll in classes,” Johnson continues, “she was worried that she would overwhelm herself by taking on too much. She said that the MIBEST program seemed perfect for her as she took the next step in achieving her dream. When I asked her what she wanted to be doing in 5 years, she mentioned going back and furthering her education even more. She is very driven. We are lucky to have her as a student.”

The week before classes started, Kati began to second guess herself again. She felt that the classes might be too much, and would interfere with her work.

“I asked her to meet with me and scheduled a Zoom meeting with her advisor at NEMCC,” Johnson said. “She was considering taking seated and online courses, but she was unsure of how to do this. She was almost in tears before we met with her advisor. She was discouraged, but I explained to her that we are all in this together. We discussed the team-teaching aspect of MIBEST and that she would have full access to the MIBEST study hall. We met with her advisor, discussed the schedule changes, and the opportunity to take most of her classes through hybrid courses.”

Morgan felt like a weight was lifted from her shoulders. She was excited to begin the fall semester and knew that with the help from the MIBEST program, she would succeed.

“Taylor and Charlie have given me a lot of guidance, and the MIBEST program gives me the support I need,” Morgan said. “They are the only reason I am in college today. Without them, I would have given up and never pursued it. Getting my diploma helped give me the courage to go to college. I am determined to succeed.”

Kati is now in her fourth week of classes at NEMCC and is doing very well. By enrolling in the MIBEST program, she has received team-teaching in her classes and is receiving weekly transportation assistance that makes the drive to campus a little easier. She is on track to graduate in May 2022 with an Associate of Applied Science in Information Systems Technology-Cyber Defense.

Having overcome so many obstacles to accomplish so much, Kati now feels that enrolling in the adult education program and MIBEST has helped her beyond just earning her high-school-equivalency diploma. She had this to say:

“Not only has NEMCC Adult Education helped me to earn my diploma and gain confidence in my educational journey,” she says, “but they have also helped me give my children the life they deserve!”

Robin Eaton

Turning Loss Into Learning

In the last three years, Robin Eaton has lost three people close to her: her mother and father, as well as her grandfather, who helped raise her. From this heartbreaking experience, she started a new life—one they would be thrilled to see.

“They’d be proud of the fact that I’m not just constantly sad and grieving,” she says. “Of course, everybody grieves, but they’d be glad to know that I learned a lot and took some good things from the bad.”

This extraordinary mindset springs from Robin’s commitment to learning from everything—even tragedy. “It’s sad that they’re gone, and it’s hard without them, but I learned a lot through those experiences. It really opened my eyes to see that life is short, and I want to be there to help people while I’m here.”

All three family members ended up requiring hospice care, with Robin helping to care for each of them in the end. She felt able to endure such difficulty, ironically, in part because of the encouragement of one of those she cared for.

“My grandfather always wanted me to be in healthcare. He thought that I had the personality for it. He had a lot of health issues, so he went back and forth to the doctor a lot, and some of his favorite people were nurses and patient care techs. He always thought that they were the nicest and the best people.”

Her formal education had ended years ago, in 8th grade of a homeschool program. Her grandmother had helped her through it as best she could, but, lacking educational training, could help her no further. Robin wound up in fast food, working her way up to management. She liked it, especially the interaction with customers, but felt more and more that her grandfather was right. She knew what she had to do: take the first step towards a high-school-equivalency diploma.

It was a difficult challenge. More than 15 years had passed since she had done any formal study. Still she enrolled in Northeast Mississippi Community College’s Adult Education program.

As her teacher at the time, Courtney Casabella, remembers it, “Robin walked into my classroom during lunch one day and told me she was ready to change her life. She told me that for various reasons she didn’t have her diploma and had been told by others it wasn’t worth it and she couldn’t achieve it. She was motivated but very unsure of herself.”

 “I was afraid of failure,” Robin says. “I have 4 kids, and I was afraid of them seeing me fail.” Still she tried, and succeeded, thanks in large part to her instructor. “She pushed me and just kept telling me to never give up,” she says of Casabella. “I really don’t think I could have done it without her.”

Underneath the uncertainty, Casabella recalls, Robin still had a solid foundation, in that “she was ready to take back her life after so much heartbreak in her past. She was ready to break free and take control. It was inspiring.”

What happened next was a transformation, or perhaps an unfolding of what was already there. “Not only did I get to witness Robin reach the milestone of getting her diploma,” says Casabella, “but what was most impressive to me was her grit and mindset shift. She’s highly motivated by her children and being an example for them, and it was so exciting to celebrate with her at each test passed.”

As Robin’s confidence grew, so did her understanding of what it took to accomplish her goals. “I’ve learned that you’re going to have to fail to succeed,” she says, advice she now offers to others. “They’re going to fail along the way, but that’s part of success. Don’t be afraid of failure.”

After completing her diploma, Robin continued moving forward: leaving her fast-food job, finding clinical work at a local hospital, completing Northeast’s EMT training program.

Along with her children and the encouraging words of her late grandfather and her teacher, Robin draws on another, albeit unlikely, source for her strength.  “I am used to chaos, and I work well with chaos,” she says, a trait that served her well during her emergency-management training. She recalls an exercise, a manual blood-pressure check, where she and her classmates were told that there would be lots of distractions when they tried to carry out the same task in the back of an ambulance. “At home, I was practicing on my husband, and my kids were running around, screaming, getting into everything. I feel like that’s how my life is, chaotic, but I can work through it.”

By embracing uncertainty, Robin has built resilience in her life. She has come to understand that the only way to learn is to take life as it comes, work with it, taking from it what she can. From dealing with death and loss to raising children, to checking vital signs in a whirlwind of chaos, she embraces life—all of it—creating one success after another.

 “I can’t wait,” says Casabella, “to see all she does in the future.”

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.

Aline Toloto

Aline Toloto

Aline Toloto and her husband moved to Hattiesburg, Mississippi from Brazil in 2017. Although Aline had taken English courses in Brazil, she found herself woefully unprepared for the demands of speaking to native English speakers.

“I could barely speak or understand what people said,” Toloto says. “It was very hard to communicate my ideas and thoughts clearly.”

During her first two months in Hattiesburg, Toloto focused on improving her English by watching T.V. shows, meeting and speaking with English-speaking friends, and attending social events. It was through her conversations that she heard about Pearl River Community College, and the ESL courses they provided.

“I started attending English classes with teacher Fred Goins,” Toloto says. “His classes motivated me to keep going and trusting that eventually I would achieve English fluency.”

After a year of studies, Toloto put her knowledge to the test and applied to take the Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL). She also applied to a graduate program in the hopes of furthering her education.

“It was very rewarding to see that all the effort I have put into learning a foreign language was worth it,” Toloto says.

Toloto is currently starting her fourth semester of her Master’s Degree in Scenic Design and Technology at USM.

Toloto’s story exemplifies the benefits of hard work, dedication, and focus, and serves as inspiration for students of all backgrounds interested in learning English as a second language.

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


#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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