Woman earns diploma with 2nd Chance MSBy BUSTER WOLFE,
For LaWanda Lowe, enrolling in the Second Chance Mississippi program was a way to break out of her comfort zone. It also led to obtaining her High School Equivalency papers for the chance at a better career situation.
Second Chance Mississippi is an organization started by former attorneys Dickie Scruggs and his son, Zach Scruggs, who both served federal prison sentences for bribing a judge. Second Chance partnered with Pearl River Community College and other community colleges around the state.
The Lamar County School District reaped the benefits of the program when PRCC offered the services to the local parents whose children were attending pre-K classes. Oak Grove Primary School pre-K teacher and local Second Chance coordinator Heather Lyons said three men completed a welding course at the Purvis Vo-Tech through the district partnership with PRCC. Three other students are returning to PRCC to complete their HSE.
“With the opening of Sumrall pre-K and addition of Lumberton to our schools, our collaborative now reaches 220 families,” Lyons said. “We have begun meeting with parents to determine their educational needs and plug them into programs at PRCC.”
“It is a great program,” Lowe said. “Before I got into the Second Chance program, I worked in Columbia. It never failed that every single Sunday I had to work. My maternity leave was the only Sundays that I had off.”
Lowe realized not having a high school diploma was holding her back.
“I thought this was getting old, but if you don’t have a diploma, there’s really not of options for you,” she said. “So, I decided that I would suck it up and go get my GED.”
Different obstacles – from personal to academic – led to Lowe’s not graduating from high school. Lowe, who describes herself as a shy person, found out her marriage moved her to another county.
“My backyard is the Lamar-Marion county line,” she said. “I went to East Marion High School from kindergarten to my senior year. I got married between my junior and senior years, and I am no longer in Marion County. I am in Lamar County even though literally our backyard is on the line.”
So, Lowe had to move to another school district after attending East Marion schools since kindergarten.
“I knew everybody there, I knew all of my teachers and that was a second home to me pretty much,” she said. “Then, when I switched to Purvis, it became a 20-plus-minute drive, I knew nobody there and even the school was different, being divided into separate schools.”
The change for Lowe was difficult.
“It wasn’t my comfort zone,” she said. “I went maybe two weeks and decided it wasn’t for me. I was grown and nobody was going to tell me what to do. Looking back now, I realize that wasn’t the smartest decision ever.”
Last year, Lowe knew she had to make a change, and the GED seemed the right thing to do.
“I’m a shy person anyway,” she said. “If it’s not something I’m comfortable with, then I don’t want to do it. I decided that I was just going to go do it, high school didn’t kill me as much as I thought it would back then, so thought I could do this. I went and took my placement test.”
Then, Lowe met the PRCC officials and heard about Second Chance Mississippi.
“Cayden, my little boy, was going to Baxterville School pre-K,” she said. “They had Family Night at Purvis and some people from PRCC were there and were talking. So, my husband said, ‘Why don’t you go talk with them?’ I said, ‘Why? I’m already getting my GED.’ He said, ‘It can’t hurt you just to talk with them.’
“We made our way around to where they had their little table set up. We talked with them and that’s when they told me about the Second Chance Mississippi program. I qualified for it with Cayden being in the Lamar County pre-K schools. If I went to class both days that I signed up, I would get my incentive for going.”
Getting her High School Equivalency has helped Lowe personally and in her career. She hopes to continue her education.
“As far as having the diploma, I gained more confidence to step out of my comfort zone and do that,” she said. “I thought that if I can do that, I can go on and get a degree. I want to be a teacher’s assistant for kindergarten or pre-kindergarten. I was kind of irritated and frustrated that I was working every Sunday; I was missing time with my kids.
“Doing this gave me confidence that if I can do that, I can go back to school.”