Meridian Star

Education

June 4, 2014

Sixty-eight-year-old veteran overcomes odds to receive GED diploma at ECCC

MERIDIAN —     For most people in their late 60s, returning to the classroom to receive a high school education is furthest thing from their mind.

    But not Larry Druery of Morton, who accomplished the feat while also overcoming three near-death experiences along the way.

    Druery, a Navy veteran, was among approximately 70 students of various ages to receive high school equivalency diplomas at East Central Community College’s semi-annual GED Graduation held earlier this spring in Huff Auditorium on the Decatur campus.

    For Druery, earning a GED diploma represents an important milestone in his life …and a desire that has been fulfilled.

    “It has been a long and difficult journey with many obstacles in my path,” said Druery, who was adopted at age 1 by an aunt after his father died in a house fire.

    “Like many of my fellow graduates, I dropped out of school at a young age. I served a tour of duty in the Navy; worked many different jobs; and went through three near-death experiences. I am now 68 years old, and God has allowed me to reach an important goal. I will forever be thankful to Him for His watchful care over me,” he said.

    Druery, who attended GED classes at the Morton Public Library under the direction of Modean Cross, often struggled to concentrate on his class work due to health problems.

    “Because I suffered a stroke, there were times when I would lose my train of thought and would have to put the work aside for a time and come back to it,” he said while holding back tears. “Within the last year, I have suffered a severe stroke; endured two months of therapy; returned to my job; and obtained my GED diploma. To all this I would say, ‘Praise God; to Him be the glory!”

    In closing remarks, Druery offered the following advice to his fellow graduates:

    “You can use this accomplishment as a stepping stone or a stumbling block.  Your future is in your hands tonight. Deal with it wisely!”        

    Also providing testimonials were graduates Annette Fortune of Carthage, Angelia Coley of Pulaski and Beatrice Moore of Decatur.

    Fortune, 51, has two sons and two grandsons. She attended ABE/GED Classes at the Leake County Career-Technical Center in Carthage.

    “I remember the anticipation of awaiting for my GED Test scores,” she recalled, “and when they arrived, slowly opening that white envelope and seeing first the words, ‘Congratulations’ and then, ‘Dear Graduate,’ which brought tears to my eyes! A dream of 36 years had finally become a reality!”

    Fortune’s success story began like many others who overcame numerous challenges on their way to receiving an education, albeit late in life.

    “You see, 36 years ago at the age of 15 in the middle of my 10th grade school year, I became pregnant and dropped out of high school. Two months later, I was married, and 19 years later I was divorced. A single mother with two boys to raise, I spent years working minimum-wage and low-income jobs until God allowed by perfect storm of losing my job of the last 11 ? years because of an arm injury.”

    With zero income and a family depending on her for support, Fortune looked for work but after months of searching and filling out numerous applications for employment, she realized she had no skills…no GED diploma. She also realized the job market was not going to change and that she needed to make a change in her life.

    “I knew I was at a dead-end road and that I had to have my GED diploma,” Fortune said. “So, I picked up the telephone and signed up for classes.”

    About halfway through her GED studies, Fortune said she had another obstacle to overcome…a heart attack.

    “The morning of July 4, 2013, I was sent by helicopter to Jackson with a 100 percent blocked artery,” she said. “The doctors let me know how blessed I was that my life was saved. After thanking God and one stint later, I still did not want to give up on getting my GED diploma. Fearful and not feeling good most days, I soon returned to classes and was determined to complete my studies.”

    Fortune accomplished her goal, for which she credits many.

    “The Bible says God always provides you with everything you need, and so He did,” she stated.     “With great mentors such as my family, my GED instructors, the security guard and my classmates, I pushed on. They always had a smile for me, showed concern for my health, and encouraged me, which caused me to keep pushing. And it was all worth it!”

    In her closing comments, Fortune said, “Now I am no longer sitting at a dead-end road, I have not put the car in reverse. I got my GED diploma, and I am now at an intersection where I have choices for a better life.”

    Coley, 33, completed ABE/GED classes held at the Morton Public Library.

    For Coley, earning a GED Diploma was not only a dream for herself but also for her father, who died on Jan. 6, 2014.

    She told her story, which included dropping out of school and working at various jobs.

    “When I was in the tenth grade at Morton High School, I thought I knew it all,” said. “I thought that since I had a car, I was too grown to stay in school. I soon learned that since I was not in school, I had to go to work. I worked at different places including helping my dad roof houses. I also served and aided family members and others recovering from health issues. I enjoyed that (type of work) and felt like it was my calling, so I worked toward and received my Certified Nursing Assistant Certificate. I have worked for Guardian Angel Hospice for the past eight years.”

    But during this time, Coley said she kept “putting off” getting her GED Diploma, despite encouragement from her father.

    When her father became ill in 2013, she decided to fulfill his wish and began taking ABE/GED classes at the Morton Library, Modean Cross served as her instructor.

    “When I started classes, my daddy and mother were so overjoyed, which boosted my self-esteem and made my motivation even stronger,” she said. “It took a lot of hard work, but I finally received my GED diploma on August 30, 2013.”

    Although Cooley’s father died prior to the GED Graduation, she knows “without a doubt that he is watching his baby girl tonight.”

    In closing, Cooley encouraged others who do not have a GED or high school diploma, “to please start GED classes. It will make you feel so good about yourself when you finally have that GED Diploma in your hand.”

    Moore, 58, is a native of New Orleans. She left the area after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and spent two years in Texas and four years in New Jersey before coming to Decatur in 2012.

    She is married to the Rev. Jimmy Moore, pastor of Decatur Missionary Baptist Church.

    Moore attended ABE/GED classes on the ECCC campus. She plans to continue her education at ECCC in hopes of eventually receiving a psychology degree at a university.

    Moore began her testimonial by giving thanks and praise to God “for allowing me the great accomplishment of getting my GED. It was challenging, but I did not give up!”

    Moore also expressed appreciation to the “wonderful, caring staff of ECCC: Ryan (Clarke), Paula (Kerr), Mrs. (Jeanne) Vares, Robin (Milling) and Mr. and Mrs. (Larry) Harms for such dedication to the students. They all inspired me to keep on keeping on. I would also like to thank my husband for his support and all my family, friends, classmates and my church (Decatur United Methodist Church), pastor Bruce and Susan Taylor and all the church members.

    During her remarks, Moore emphasized: “It’s never too late to get your GED. I am 58 years old and I’m proud to say that I achieved my goal at the age of 57 after 16 months of dedication to attending class and studying for the test. The GED diploma is a great accomplishment, and it opens many doors of opportunity.”

    Moore also challenged those without a GED to “take the challenge and join GED classes….and then you will be successful.”

    “Remember,” she concluded, “it’s never too late!”

    For more information on ECCC’s ABE/GED program, contact Ryan Clarke, Director of ABE/GED Testing, at (601) 635-6387 or email arke@eccc.edu

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