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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 grant initiative.

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 share.

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 spare time.

“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 their life.”

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 “student recruiters.”

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.