PEARL – Madison Nance smiled and celebrated with family and friends Thursday outside the Muse Center holding two symbols of pride and joy that came unexpectedly.
“What’s gotten me through is my child,” Nance said, as seven-month-old Cooper nibbled at the corner of his mother’s diploma from Northwest Rankin High School. “I wanted to succeed in life for him.”
Nance was among 27 high school students in Rankin County who received diplomas and earned college credit this past semester thanks to the Gateway to College program, which targets those in the school system who have dropped out or are at risk of doing so because they’ve fallen behind in their studies.
By her junior year, her algebra grades had put Nance on a fast track to summer school and possibly not graduating. A cousin had completed the program last year, which made Gateway a viable option, her mother, Jana, said.
Last November, program advisors took Nance to the hospital on a class day as Cooper came two weeks early. Support came from home and school when it came to keeping studies in line as she juggled motherhood and completing her education.
“She was worried she wouldn’t be able to complete algebra,” Jana Nance said. “I was encouraging her at home, but I’m mama. It’s something else when you’ve got ladies who say, ‘Oh, we know you can do this. You’ve just got to buckle down and study’.”
Nance ended up with 24 hours of college credits she’ll use toward her pursuit of a nursing degree.
“I’ve been adamant about nursing since ninth grade,” Nance said. “I want to work in a NICU, with babies.”
A ceremony marking this year’s Gateway graduates was keynoted by Kathy Smith, an English instructor at the Rankin Campus. Smith spoke on the importance of planning and setting goals.
“Nobody else in this world can make your dreams come true,” Smith said. “Your mama can’t, your daddy can’t, your boyfriend can’t, your girlfriend can’t. Are you willing to put in the planning, the time and the effort to make your dreams come true?”
You have just completed a major chapter in the book of your life that your are writing. But it’s not the end. Life is an endurance test. It’s for those who endure and put one foot in front of the other.”
Gateway began at Hinds in the 2012-13 academic term at the Rankin Campus and, this past term, expanded to the Vicksburg-Warren Campus. It functions as a Mississippi Works Partnership between Hinds and the two respective school districts.
Once directed toward the program, often by high school guidance counselors, students aged 16-20 are placed in small learning communities and take basic skills classes while dually enrolled on at Hinds.
Students entering the program must read on an eighth-grade level and pass HCC’s placement test for full participation. Classes in reading, math, college skills and other subjects are then aligned for the level at which they would have been taken in a traditional high school setting.
Gateway graduates included, front from left, Amanda Witherington, Northwest Rankin High School, 21 hours of college credits; Ashley Porter, Richland High School, 31 hours; Abbie Shanks, Richland High School, 32 hours; Savanah Kees, Florence High School, 16 hours; Chelsea Hughes, Brandon High School, 31 hours; Christina Hust, Northwest Rankin High School, 22 hours; Tiffany Rutland, Florence High School, 17 hours; Taylor Hollis, McLaurin High School, 17 hours; Logan Horton, Northwest Rankin High School, 21 hours; second row from left, Carley Huckeby, Northwest Rankin High School, 24 hours; Amber Flinta, Richland High School, 22 hours; Willesha Holloway, McLaurin High School, 41 hours; Mia Richards, Northwest Rankin High School, 26 hours; Meghan Shepherd, Florence High School, 21 hours; Ashley Edmondson, Brandon High School, 21 hours; Madison Nance, Northwest Rankin High School, 24 hours; Jacob Simpson Northwest Rankin High School, 17 hours; third row from left, Cheyanne Harper, McLaurin High School, 35 hours; Dylan Curtis, Brandon High School, 38 hours; Blake Blakeney, Brandon High School, 18 hours; Kirkland Ledbetter, Brandon High School, 13 hours; Jadland McCoy, Brandon High School, 28 hours; Jordan Young, Northwest Rankin High School, 22 hours; Sam Gabell, Brandon High School, 18 hours; not pictured, Jakavis Cavett, Brandon High School, seven hours; Deanna Thomas, Brandon High School, 20 hours; and Allyson Brennan, Brandon High School, 10 hours.