HCC Kicks Off New
Student Success Initiative
|Participants in the GED
Kickoff included from left, Denise Savage, Dr.
Ervin V. Griffin Sr., Peggy Alexander, Carrie
Gearing, Brenda Cousins, Rosa Sherk, Det. Baesha
Coppedge, Tamba Thompson, Brian Hopkins, and
Dean Vera Palmer.
Last semester, Halifax Community College
received a Student Success Activity Grant from the North
Carolina Community College System. The purpose of the grant
is to reach out to those in the area's population who have
multiple barriers to education, including citizens with
limited English proficiency. The plan offers an innovative
recruitment and retention initiative and will target the
importance of motivation in achieving student success. On
Mar. 19, HCC personnel held a kickoff celebration for the
During the kickoff, HCC hosted certified motivational
speaker Rosa Williams Sherk and GED graduates Denise Savage,
Peggy Alexander, Carrie Gearing, and Detective Baesha
Coppedge. Also participating were Dr. Joy Cooley, Dean Vera
Palmer, Brian Hopkins, Tamba Thompson, Brenda Cousins, and
Dr. Ervin V. Griffin, Sr.
Sherk is an award-winning master trainer, life coach, author
and motivational speaker with the Les Brown Network. She
focused on “how to become unstoppable.” Key points included
having a purpose in life, passion, belief in oneself,
preparation, building a team, creativity and persistence.
“You must do the things today that others won't do so that
you can have the things tomorrow that others won't have,”
she said. “You want to have the things you need…Be willing
to put in the work.”
GED graduates also had inspirational stories of their own to
Denise Savage, who dropped out of high school due to
behavior and economic challenges, knew she needed a GED. She
has since gone on to earn several credentials. “The GED
program is designed to help those who really want to better
themselves and their educational goals and career status,”
said Savage. She stressed determination, courage, love and
consistence as keys to successfully manage the program.
Savage is now a counselor with Halifax County Schools.
After finding herself pregnant at the age of 15, Carrie
Gearing decided to drop out of school. By age 19, she had
three children and was a full-time mother and wife. In 1991,
she earned a GED and at first wanted to be a nurse, but
discovered that her calling was to be a psychotherapist.
Gearing has achieved many goals, but is still striving for
more in her education and career. “School wasn't easy for
me,” she said. “Nothing is impossible as long as you do not
get in your way.” Gearing is now a licensed professional
counselor and adjunct instructor. She is also the daughter
of GED graduate and current HCC student Peggy Alexander.
Baesha Coppedge was in and out of trouble as a youth. Her
mother had drug problems, so Coppedge lived in foster care
for a time. Originally from New Haven, Conn., she was later
adopted by her grandmother and grew up in south Rocky Mount.
While living there, she became a gang member and ended up in
juvenile detention. By the age of 19, she was a single
parent with four kids. Then, she decided to show her
grandmother that she could earn a GED and become somebody.
“The GED program is one of the best programs that I've ever
heard of,” said Coppedge, who just made detective status
with Enfield Police Department. Today, she holds several
professional certifications and works with juveniles in her
“I believe this program is yet another way that HCC will
reach out to our service region and assist our citizens in
realizing their untapped potential… I also believe that you
have to take responsibility for your own destiny,” said
President Griffin. “This program is geared toward giving
students the tools they need to get on the pathway to their
dreams and possibilities that they may not, even now, see in
With the funding, a part-time Assessment Retention Counselor
will be hired. For three months, the project will work on
recruiting hard-to-reach students and also focus on
retaining those students until they complete the
requirements for their GED. Working alongside the counselor
will be current and former GED students who will become
The GED program was established in 1942 to benefit World War
II veterans. Since then, more than 13.5 million adults have
earned the credential. For more information about the new
Student Success Initiative, contact HCC Literacy Education
staff: Tamba Thompson at (252) 536-7235, Therman Taylor at
(252) 536-6362, Brian Hopkins at (252) 536-6395, or Brenda
Cousins at (252) 536-7240.