Release date: July 20, 2012
MAYHEW – Ever since she dropped out of high school in 1969, Leola Shotwell of West Point has been taking care of someone – her husband, her children or her grandchildren. After 43 years, she decided to do a little something for herself.
After a lifetime of regret over stopping one year short earning her high school diploma, 60-year-old Leola Shotwell received her GED diploma Thursday from East Mississippi Community College’s Adult Basic Education program.
She was joined in the Lyceum auditorium at EMCC’s Golden Triangle campus by 31 fellow graduates, each with their own motivations for earning their diploma. Many will use it to take the next step in their educations. Others will attempt to advance in the workforce.
Shotwell, who retired from Bryan Foods in West Point in 1994, simply crossed it off her to-do list.
“It’s something I wanted to do for myself. I didn’t finish high school. I got married and had a child and went to work. I read in the newspaper they were giving free GED classes at Bryan Public Library, so I signed up,” she said.
Shotwell was also attracted to the flexible nature of the GED program. The class meets twice a week. And as instructor Vicki Cooper explains, students leave as soon as they’re ready to take the test.
“Some people stay one night and some people stay two years,” said Cooper.
Shotwell spent about a year taking classes, minus some time missed due to illness, but she was anything but casual about her studies. She never missed a class if she could help it and routinely showed up to class early, often beating Cooper to the library.
“She always had a book in her hand and would be waiting, reading a book, when I got there,” said Cooper. “She was the perfect student. She was always early. She kept all the pencils sharp. She was the solid rock of the class.”
Shotwell’s reading habit helped immensely as she refreshed herself on much of the material she’d learned in high school. The algebra was a bit tricky, but her hunger to learn saw her through. And the class even introduced her to a new preoccupation.
“Now I’m consumed with the computer. I want to learn computers and I don’t have any intention of stopping,” said Shotwell.
She’s already taken three computer courses under Cooper, who has proven to be a mentor of sorts: “Mrs. Cooper is one of the most patient, understanding people you could deal with. I would recommend her class to anyone wanting to get a GED. And if I can get one at my age, anyone can.”
Cooper is equally impressed with Shotwell, whom she says acted as a mentor herself. Drawing on her vast experience, from dropping out of high school to operating a band saw at Bryan Foods, Shotwell took every opportunity to emphasize the importance of education to her new peers.
“We had a lot of younger students in the class and she would try to motivate them to get serious and come to class,” said Cooper.
The keynote address at Thursday’s graduation was delivered by two former GED recipients. Stacy Redmond of Columbus is a 1999 graduate of EMCC’s ABE/GED program. She went on to earn her Practical Nursing degree from EMCC and is now a registered nurse at Baptist Memorial Hospital – Golden Triangle, and is working toward her bachelor’s degree at Mississippi University for Women. Megan Copley earned her GED in 2001 and began her college studies at EMCC. She is now enrolled in law school at the University of Mississippi.
All graduates of East Mississippi Community College’s GED program are qualified for tuition guarantee to cover two years of classes at EMCC. For more information,
call (662) 243-2627.
Leola Shotwell of West Point stands with her family Thursday after the GED graduation ceremony at EMCC's Golden Triangle campus.
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GED graduation, July 2012
EMCC Adult Basic Education instructor Vicki Cooper with GED graduate Leola Shotwell.
ABE instructor Geneva Atkins, left, poses with graduation keynote speakers Stacy Redmond and Megan Copley, ABE Director Jim Bearden and EMCC Golden Triangle campus Vice President Dr. Paul Miller. Both Stacy and Megan earned their GED diplomas at EMCC. Megan is now a law student at Ole Miss. Stacy is a registered nurse at Baptist Memorial Hospital. WCBI visited with Stacy before Thursday's ceremony. Click this link to view the story, beginning at the 50-second mark.
GED graduates who took part in commencement Thursday at EMCC's Golden Triangle campus:
Sierra Baptist of Crawford
Antonio Brown of Scooba
Shenquina Capers of Starkville
Sierra Dickert of West Point
Charles Doremus Jr. of Mathiston
Khari Eichelberger Louisville
Kerri Hannah of Starkville
Melissa Hardcastle of Macon
Decarlous Hill of Starkville
Ciara Jenkins of Starkville
Sara Langford of West Point
Paula Laster of West Point
Jacob Leggett of Starkville
Reid McPherson of Columbus
Tyson Moore of West Point
Candace Murray of Starkville
Quadrinna Orr of Columbus
Andrea Rice of Brooksville
Victoria Robinson of Columbus
Leola Shotwell of West Point
Michelle Smith of Crawford
Katega Spencer of Macon
Shelby Steadman of Sturgis
Theresa Stockman of Sturgis
Kayla Studdard of Caledonia
Charles Thompson Jr. of Columbus
Tyquintin Walker of West Point
Tierria Wofford of Maben
Thomas Yoder of Crawford