Roger Jones, 33, speaks about his struggles in education during a GED graduation at Lyceum Auditorium at East Mississippi Community College Thursday night. Photo by: Courtesy photo
EMCC Adult Education program celebrated the following 21 students at the graduation ceremony: Anthony Bishop of Caledonia; Thomas Brown of Columbus; John Clark of Macon; Stephanie Clark of DeKalb; Brandi Dempsey of Mathiston; Tyler Elliott of Columbus: James Enis of Vardaman; Thomas Flores of Columbus; Haleigh Gazaway of Ackerman; Sheila Guyton of Columbus; Justin Harrison; Roger Jones of Maben; Karl Mast of Brooksville; Gracie Murphy of Maben; Abraham Niswonger of Caledonia; Chinesa Ross of West Point; Quez Stephenson of Choctaw County; ReErica Tumblin of West Point; Gerald Williams, Jr. of West Point; Emily Wilson of Brooksville; and Tes Wilson of Steens.
Photo by: Courtesy photo
June 18, 2018 10:23:31 AM
Roger Jones, 33, was set to graduate with honors from Maben High School in 2003, until he was arrested for a drug charge weeks before commencement.
This May -- 15 years after the incident that derailed Jones' once promising academic future -- he was sitting on his couch after his children came home from school and researching a way to complete his high-school level studies.
"Man, I'm smart, and I know a lot of people are counting on me anyway," Jones remembered thinking. "I gotta go get my education."
Jones found the Launch Pad program at East Mississippi Community College, which offers the opportunity for students to earn a general equivalency diploma (GED) at their own pace. For Jones, that pace was three weeks, as he stood among 18 program graduates Thursday during a ceremony at EMCC's Golden Triangle campus in Mayhew.
Now, Jones is enrolled at EMCC to study manufacturing. One day, he said, he hopes to go to law school.
"Guys like me who have been through struggles, they can't talk for themselves," Jones said. "They don't have a voice. I know that I can give them that voice."
While Jones stood proud in front of his fiancee Ariel and his four daughters, Thursday's ceremony arguably meant the most to Jones' mother, Ema. She bought the cap and gown in 2003 that Jones never got to wear.
"Mama, I did it!" Jones exclaimed on-stage as tears welled in Ema's eyes.
"I can't describe it," Jones later said. "Seeing my mom and my kids got (me) good."
In all, 21 graduated from EMCC's Launch Pad this spring with three unable to attend Thursday's ceremony.
Geneva Atkins, adult education instructor at EMCC, said the program works to accommodate anyone serious about earning their GED.
Launch Pad not only has instructors and tutors to help prepare for the high school equivalency test, but also provides a program called Smart Start Pathways -- designed to teach organization, resume and interview skills. The adult education program at EMCC is built to help students achieve better careers and have the skills to maintain those careers, said Atkins.
"We are training these students to be outstanding citizens and to have the American dream," Atkins said. "We're just not putting any limits on anything."
Chinesa Ross, 23, of West Point is due to have a baby in September and wants her child to know how important education is.
"There were times I felt like giving up," Ross said. "But (EMCC) reminded me the reasons I should come back. I wanted to earn everything that I had lost. At one point I had it all and I lost it all."
After receiving her GED, Ross has also enrolled with EMCC to pursue her certified nursing assistant's degree. Having a free program available to earn her GED has already helped Ross in her educational journey.
"It's given me a lot of opportunities, such as job (prospects), finding a career and what I want to do next," Ross said.
Patricia Wilson, 18, of Steens heard about the Launch Pad program from relatives and friends who have also completed it. Wilson said the program's welcoming environment helped her believe in herself again.
"They give you your cap and your tassel to take home with you," Wilson said. "I can look back on my wall, and my kids can look back and be proud of that."
Wilson will take her ACT at EMCC and begin her college career in hopes of earning a business administration degree.
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