DECATUR — After leading a life of “many wrong turns and bad choices,” Teresa James of Louin said she now has “inner peace” and a “self-fulfillment she never had before.”

James, 29, made the comments prior to receiving her high school equivalency diploma at the annual GED Graduation held at East Central Community College.

James, one of three graduates providing testimonials during the special ceremony, continued her remarks by stating she is proof that “choices can be changed and dreams can come true!”

The mother of three children said she realized that “something” was missing in her life, and that she could fill the void by getting her GED at East Central.

She credits those three children — Bobby, Brittany and Jacob — and her husband, Michael, for the “inspiration” to achieve a high school education.

“My children helped me in more ways than I can express,” James stated. “Thank you for never giving up on Momma.”

James also thanked her husband “for showing me a different and better path along this journey called life. You are a true blessing and I would not be standing here today without your love and encouragement!”

She also gave appreciation to ECCC Adult and Basic Education staff members Jane Jackson, Ed McGowan, Jimmy Dempsey, Ryan Clarke and Bryan and Mary Burt “for helping make my journey lighter and my road more directed.”

James said her next goal is to become a member of the Mississippi National Guard.

Also providing testimonials were DeeDee Walters of Decatur and Roxanne Wilson of Hickory.

Walters, 25, recalled in her remarks that she had quit school seven years ago “because I thought a diploma was not important. But I stand here before you today with the realization that obtaining my GED is very important to me and my family.”

Walters, who is about to give birth to her second child, said she realized earlier this year that the best way for her to help provide for their growing family is to obtain her GED.

“I feel a brick wall has been lifted off my back in many ways,” she stated. “I know all the graduates feel the same way.”

Walters also thanked her husband, Scotty; their son, Stephen, and other family members for helping her achieve her goal of getting the GED.

“You all believed in me and helped keep me encouraged. I would not be standing here today without your love and support!”

She also gave credit to ECCC for offering the GED program, and thanked her instructors.

Walters said she plans to stay home a year after her child is born and then enroll in ECCC’s cosmetology program.

During her comments, Wilson, 31, said she quit school at age 17 and only a few months from graduation.

“The heartbreak I felt leaving school without achieving my dream of obtaining a high school diploma was devastating!” she stated.

Now, 16 years later, Wilson said she has finally achieved her dream, although she faced many obstacles during the process. She praised her children — Coneasha, Ashley and Marquez — for the inspiration needed to keep her focused on her work.

“No matter what was going on in my life, my children urged me to get my education. They kept telling me they were on my side and proud of what I was trying to do,” she said.

Wilson also thanked ECCC staffers.

“If I missed class, I knew I would get a call from Ms. Jane checking to making sure I was okay and to encourage me to ‘get myself back to class,’” she explained. “Mr. McGowan would always tell me he was glad to see me and encouraged me to stick with the program! I followed their advice, and I am grateful to them for not letting me give up in spite of everything going on in my personal life.”

Wilson concluded her speech by issuing a challenge to others who may need a little encouragement to continue their education.

“No matter who you are or what you are facing in life, you can overcome it and achieve your dreams.”

Wilson is currently enrolled in ECCC’s business technology program. She plans to graduate in May 2007.

Another inspiring message was delivered by Marcella Sanchez, a native of Trujillo, Venezuela, who now resides in Flowood. Sanchez, who could not speak English when she arrived in the United States in April 2005, began taking the English As A Second Language classes that were offered by ECCC at Scott Regional Hospital in Morton. Mo Cross served as her instructor.

Sanchez said not being able to speak English made her feel “alone,” since the only person she could communicate with was her husband, Robert, who speaks English and Spanish. But since taking the ESL course, Sanchez has discovered a new world.

“I am now able to communicate with my neighbors, the people at my church, and my family, in English. I love the United States and now feel that I am part of America. I do not understand why anyone would want to live in the United States and not learn the language! I want to thank Mrs. Mo for taking the time to teach me. I also want to thank you (ECCC) for allowing me to speak,” she said while holding back tears.

Also participating in the program were vocalist Tim Pilgrim of Morton and pianists Jeff Hardy of Newton and Jason Viverette of Carthage. Thirty-nine students walked across the Huff Auditorium stage to receive their GED diplomas from ECCC President Dr. Phil A. Sutphin and Gene Davis, dean of Adult and Continuing Education.

Members of the Class of 2006 include Matthew Barrett, Jonathan Eaves and Zachary Fulton, all of Louisville; Lindsey Bozeman, Bobby Campbell and Cindy Chesney, all of Union; Lora Amanda Bryant, Pelahatchie; Sarah Burrage, Nichole Ferguson, Brook Daniel Jackson, Wallace Sullivan and Jason Viverette, all of Philadelphia; Brittany Collins, Michael Edmonds, Leslie Lay and Valerie Thigpen, all of Forest; Chris Creighton, Justin Kevin Morrow, Fabien Gillis and Roxanne Wilson, all of Hickory; Makisha S. Davis, Barbie Folse, Eric Kyzar and Marcel Shelton, all of Newton; Bobbie Kaye Green, Preston; Christopher Morgan, Lawrence; Ronald Harper and Casey Wright, both of Lena; Teresa James, Louin; Jamey Johnson and Brandi Reynolds, both of Conehatta; JoAnn Lee, Carthage; Whitney Lott, Dorothy Sullivan and DeeDee Walters, all of Decatur; Daniel Pilgrim, Morton; Alexander McMillan, Choctaw; Natasha Walker, Pearl; and Daniel Young, Meridian.

For more information about the ECCC Adult Basic Education/GED Program contact the Office of Adult and Continuing Education. Phone 601-635-2111 or call toll free, 1-877-462-3222, ext. 278/279. The email address is

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