CHRIS KIEFFER: Encouraging GED graduates important for community

For roughly 900 students who have received GEDs from Itawamba and Northeast Mississippi Community Colleges in the past year, last week’s graduation ceremonies were filled with hope and second chances.
Those students have faced one setback or another over the years that prevented them from graduating with their high school classes.
But they were also the ones who did not give up, took additional courses and eventually passed the test to receive their General Educational Development certification.
Last week’s graduation ceremony was their special moment when proud family members screamed as their names were called.
I walked around the Bonner Arnold Coliseum at Northeast Mississippi Community College for about a half hour after that school’s ceremony. It was thick on smiles, joyful tears and hugs.
For these graduates, the world was suddenly large again.
One of the primary educational problems that Northeast Mississippi is trying to correct is its high number of high school dropouts.
Obviously those efforts must start with attempts to keep students in schools, and many programs are dedicated to doing that. In nearly all cases, that is also the best path for the student.
But we as a community must also remember those students who have already dropped out. We must encourage and support their efforts to expand their education.
It was refreshing to see the renewed hope in this year’s GED students. Many were planning to attend community colleges and senior colleges in the fall. They had plans to be dentists or teachers or to work in a medical field.
One of the speakers at ICC’s GED graduation ceremony was Mack-Arthur Tuner, who dropped out of high school in 10th grade.
But Turner received his GED from ICC. Then on May 14, he became the first person in his family to graduate from college when he walked the stage at ICC.
“Against all odds, you have excelled as I feel I have,” Turner told the assembled graduates. “Against all odds, we have grown.”
Congratulations to those who overcame the odds. Congratulations to all students graduating in Northeast Mississippi this year.

Contact Chris Kieffer at (662) 678-1590 or chris.kieffer@djournal.com.

Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal