Shareka Judon

An NEMCC Adult Education student perseveres—for all the right reasons.

Shareka Judon was determined to complete her high-school-equivalency diploma to help support her four children.

“Working full-time–and still being a mother.” This is how she describes the challenges she faced in completing her diploma through Northeast Mississippi Community College.

How was she able to overcome these challenges?

“I just put my mind to it,” she says. “There were a lot of late nights, falling asleep with the book in my hand. But I knew I had four babies at home watching me. Especially my girls who were older. They could understand.”

What they understood was, in part, that Shareka—who withdrew from high school in the 11th grade after learning she was pregnant with her oldest daughter—was struggling. They were watching her juggle a couple of important and all-consuming responsibilities.

First, there was the responsibility of motherhood. Shareka smiles more than most people, especially when discussing her children. While she is being interviewed, motherhood is the thing she mentions second-most often.

And not just being there for her kids, as any mother does. But caring for them, in ways most of us don’t have to worry about. That oldest daughter has had four open-heart surgeries, beginning at two months old. The youngest child, her son, is severely autistic. Shareka was unable to attend class in the first few weeks, due to frequent trips to LeBonheur Children’s Hospital. All the while, Shareka managed a full-time job.

Shareka pursued her diploma with Northeast while working full-time as an assistant manager in a retail store. Not long after she earned her diploma, she had to leave her job. Her son had started school, which proved to be overwhelming for him.

“There were lots of days when he went to school and had a meltdown, and I had to go get him,” she says. Work became impossible.

“She had some real challenges juggling everything,” one of her teachers, Shawn Davis, concurs. “She went back and forth from day class to night class. I know it was hard for her.”

Again, motherhood is the thing she mentions second-most often while being interviewed. The thing she mentions most often is not giving up. And that’s what her children really noticed, what they really understood.

“I didn’t want them to say, ‘Well, mama didn’t stay in school, so we don’t care if we do,’” she says. “I wanted to be a good example for them, to let them know to never give up. Keep trying. Success means putting your mind to it, being determined about it, and completing what you started.”

“I see myself (in the future) in a doctor’s office, being successful at something I really love to do.” She wants to learn more about clinical care, she says, “for my daughter and my son. I want to know what I can do to help them.” And for the patients and their families, who will no doubt benefit from her compassion, borne of her own experiences. She has been there. She still is.

Shareka will begin working toward her degree this summer and is determined to obtain her degree.

“I think,” Davis says, “she’ll be able to do whatever she puts her mind to.” And the lives of her patients will be much richer for it.

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