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GED graduates receive diplomas in ceremony

June 25, 2012

Cheyenne Thompson did it for Addison.

Now that Cheyenne Thompson has her GED and her daughter Addison Thompson is 2 months old, Cheyenne said she will be able to attend classes at East Mississippi Community College. However, almost a year ago when Cheyenne became pregnant, she had two years of conventional high school education left, she said.

“I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it with a newborn,” Cheyenne said. “I wanted to have my GED before I had her. So, I got my GED when I was eight months pregnant.”

Cheyenne was one of 21 graduates from Emerson Family Schools’ GED program who walked across the stage and received their degrees in a ceremony Sunday.

Cheyenne also received a special award for attaining the highest average in the class, one she said surprised her.

“It really means a lot,” Cheyenne said. “It makes me feel better about myself, makes me feel like I can do anything I want to.”

Introducing the class, Joan Butler, Starkville School District’s Family Centered Programs director, said there were many more graduates who chose not to participate in the ceremony. She said she was grateful to everyone who took part in the ceremony and is grateful to all the graduates, whether present or not.

“We want to say, first of all, how much we appreciate (the graduates) for the diligence and hard work they have displayed to reach this high level in their life,” Butler said. “I (also) want to say ‘Thank you’ to the friends and family who supported (these graduates).”

Da’Shanta West was one of the graduates who spoke during the program. She said there were many times when she and her fellow graduates felt like giving up on their education, but they persevered.

“We learned that it is not what you do when you fail but what you do after you fail that counts,” West said. “Let’s make the most out of our lives for ourselves and those who helped us get here. Always have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. If you ever give up on yourself ... there is one person that would never give up on you, and that is God.”

Glenn Hamilton was the program’s special guest speaker. Hamilton entered the farm supply business shortly after high school, he said, but he has often wished he had pursued more studies at the college level. Education is important, he said, but hard work is more important.

“I was thinking, in making my preparations today, (of making) an effort to motivate and inspire ... but honestly, I’m the one who’s inspired,” Hamilton said. “I graduated at Maben High School in 1973. My graduating class wasn’t as big as this class here. You all are to be commended.”

Another graduate, Herschel Isaac, said he was grateful to those who inspired him to pursue a GED, including his mother and the Emerson GED teachers, particularly Rose Coffey and Gloria Conley, He said he first took the GED in 2004, but he did not get serious about it again until 2011, working with Emerson teachers.

“I quit school at an early age, like 16,” Isaac said. “It wasn’t by force. It was something I chose to do, and it’s something I’ve wished a thousand times I hadn’t done. Without a GED or a high school diploma, there’s no success in life.”

Isaac said he hopes to enroll in Mississippi State University’s elementary education program because he enjoys helping children. Like Cheyenne, he said his own child, 7-year-old Kardarius Isaac, was a key reason he pursued his GED.

“I want my son to do very much better than I did,” Herschel said. “I also know you have to lead by example.”

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