For 13 years, Christine Jennings put her education on hold.
“I had to put my education on hold to take care of my father," she said. “He was all that I had. I'm going to complete what I started."
After he passed, Jennings decided to go back to school, enrolling in a program at MSU-Meridian called Complete 2 Compete.
The statewide program is designed to help Mississippi adults who have earned college credit—but not a degree—complete their education.
The state's eight public universities, 15 public community colleges, and the medical center participate in the program.
The program started in 2017 and helps students 21 and older who have been out of school for the last 2 years.
Since the program started, 1776 degrees have been awarded, 306 at Starkville and 74 at Meridian.
Currently,13 students are enrolled in the program at MSU-Meridian.
Kristi Dearing, coordinator of advisement and transfer partnerships MSU-Meridian, said the program offers traditional and online classes.
John Rohrer of Decatur, who dropped out of college in 2011, said the Complete 2 Compete program got him back on track.
“I just thought school wasn’t for me,” he said. “I had accumulated about 95 hours and I went back to school when I was 33."
This time around, Rohrer said he's more focused on his studies.
“I found it to be easier because I think my priorities were more in line and I had a goal of finishing school," he said. "I'm probably a lot more responsible now than I was when I was 18 and 19.”
Jennings, who is in her 60s, said returning to school wasn't difficult. After graduating, she hopes to earn a master's degree in education.
“I'm glad I made that choice this past January,” she said. “You are never too old to go back to school.”
When she graduates from MSU-Meridian next year, the moment will be bittersweet.
“It's kind of emotional because my dad always supported me,” she said. “That's one graduation he wouldn't miss, but I know he will be with me in spirit.”
For more information on the Complete 2 Compete program at MSU-Meridian, contact Dearing at 601-484-0229.