Students receive GEDs
By By Steve Gillespie/The Meridian Star
July 20, 2001
They didn't get a high school diploma, but 38 people received the next best thing when they wore a cap and gown at Meridian Community College's McCain Theater on Thursday and picked up their general educational development certificates.
Participation in the ceremony was optional. A total of 238 students graduated from the community college GED program during the 2000-2001 school year. All GED graduates also receive a "congratulatory scholarship" for one free class at MCC.
Students receive their GED certificates, the equivalent of a high school diploma, after completing a series of five tests covering literature and the arts, social studies, writing, science and math. Students work at their own pace.
Here is a brief glimpse into the lives of a few of the graduates who received their GED certificate Thursday night, including a look at where they have been and where they are going.
Shirley and Michael Collins
Shirley Collins of Meridian was a child bride of 15.
At age 52, she received her GED and the Willie Williams Scholarship a $500 award given in memory of the former Adult Basic Education director at MCC to a high-scoring GED student enrolled at the college.
One of her grandchildren, 18-year-old Michael Collins, also from Meridian, attended GED classes and graduated with his grandmother.
Michael said bad grades in high school kept him from getting a diploma. Michael sacked groceries when he left high school and then, later, worked at his grandfather's body shop.
Shirley set out to get her GED first.
Shirley is taking a business course at MCC; Michael is considering an off-shore occupation.
Ashley Pettway, 18, of Meridian, had her high school education detoured when she was diagnosed with lupus two years ago.
Pettway, who plans to continue her education at MCC by taking a nursing class, said she believed she was going to finally get her GED "because I was going to keep trying until I got it. I wasn't going to give up."
Ontego Straight, 23, from Cuba, Ala. , said his father believed the public school system was too rough.
So Straight began attending a private Christian academy when he was in the eighth-grade. Later, his family decided on home-schooling.
Over the years, Straight said, he realized people need a high school diploma or college degree to get ahead. So after he moved to Meridian three years ago, he decided to work on his GED.
Straight is married and has a 5-year-old son. He is in the Mississippi Army National Guard and plans to join the U.S. Army full-time so he can eventually get a college education.