For Starkville Daily News
The decision to go back to school is only half the battle.
When Dominique Gardner of West Point dropped out of high school during her senior year to care for her first daughter, she promised herself she would earn her GED once the child was in school. The first daughter was joined by another, but when Anariaha and Jakeria started school, their mother kept her word.
Being a single mother with a full-time job doesn’t always leave time for enthusiasm.
“That five o’clock class was very difficult. I worked from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. in the circuit clerk’s office at the courthouse and went home to feed the kids. Then I didn’t want to leave the house to see Mrs. Cooper,” said Gardner.
But every day, like clockwork, East Mississippi Community College Adult Basic Education instructor Vicki Cooper saw Gardner walk through the door of her class at the Bryan Public Library in West Point.
“Even if she didn’t have a babysitter, Dominique would put her girls in the children’s room in the library. And the library staff and other students in the class would rally around her to help with the kids, bring the girls candy or whatever it took,” said Cooper.
“My classmates always spoiled them even when I would say no. They would whisper to them, ‘Come over here. Your mama’s mean,’” said Gardner.
Day after day, Gardner showed up on time for class, and stuck with the program even when she had to retake the math portion of the GED test.
“She didn’t give up, which some people do,” said Cooper.
On Thursday night, Gardner got her reward as she walked across the stage at the Lyceum on EMCC’s Golden Triangle campus to receive her GED. She’s now enrolled full-time at EMCC, thanks to the guaranteed scholarship offered to students who earn their GED through EMCC. She hopes to one day work as a special education teacher.
So far, 63 students have earned their GEDs at East Mississippi Community College this school year. Twenty-two of them took part in graduation November 29, including Starkville residents Brittany Dailey, Lou-Quan Lucious and Sigourney Smith.