June 1, 2023
It was another record-setting year for the Adult Education program at Pearl River Community College.
During commencement Thursday, May 25, at the Lake Terrace Convention Center, some 150 students walked across the stage to receive their high school equivalency diplomas.
More than 250 students graduated this year, making it one of the program’s biggest graduation groups ever.
“This is a night for true celebration,” PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood told the graduates. “What we are witnessing here are life-changing experiences for all of you. What I see in this room tonight are heroes.”
Graduation speaker was Beth Little, State Director of Adult Education and High School Equivalency.
“This is getting them back on track of what is going to better their future, if they want to go to college or if they want to get that job,” said PRCC Assistant Dean of Adult Education Ruby Smith. “And we have a lot of interesting success stories.”
Some graduates made their families proud, like Brandon Winslow and his daughter Sarah – both from Hancock County – who graduated together.
“I have been wanting to do this for a long time,” said Brandon, 39. He wants to get into the HVAC business. “To do this with (Sarah) is special for me. It was special to be a part of this school.”
Sarah, 17, agrees with her dad. “It feels great. I plan to go on to college, move on with my life and be successful.”
Angel Ruffin, 22, and her younger brother, Jonah, 17, see this day as something special in their lives.
“It feels amazing to accomplish one of my goals in a short period of time,” said Angel. “Pearl River gave me an opportunity to meet nice people and enjoy my time learning new things.”
Angel plans to enter the business management program at PRCC while Jonah wants to get into graphic design and video game development.
Said Jonah, “With this degree, it feels like I have been given a choice as to what I plan to do in the future.”
Anayanci Quintana is from Mexico and makes her home in Diamondhead. At 48, she has spent the major portion of her life working for her four children. Two have finished college and another finishes high school this year.
“I am very grateful for this day,” she said. “I am able to graduate because I wanted to make my parents proud.”
Her parents were in attendance for the ceremony. She is already enrolled as a college student at PRCC.
Aaron McCoy of Picayune said his journey to graduation was “a long haul,” but admits it is exciting to see it completed. McCoy, 30, plans to work as an electrician technician.
“This has been an exiting place to be,” he said. “I met a lot of people and each one of them is unique.”
Some of the graduates not only got their diplomas, but also received workforce certificates.
The Assistant Dean of Adult Education and Youth Services at PRCC is Ruby Lee Smith. Chris Maul is the Adult Education Coordinator; Michele Seal, the Lead Instructor/ Site Supervisor; and Diane Blackman, the Adult Education/MIBEST Counselor.
Adult Education Graduates by Location or Program
Graduates from the greater Hattiesburg area included from right: First row – James Mason Stuart, Laken Herring, Jenifer Turno, Shakina Minor, Aaron McCoy, Anna-Grace Odom, Kaitlyn Odom, Alyssa Wells, Kasey Ford, Melanie Jenkins, Jo Hillery, Sarabien Lockhart, Naomi Millage, Shayleigh Matheny, Brittany Weber and Kami-Ny’cole Seeley. Second row – Anailya McCray, Victoria Keith, Dominic Neal, Heath Herring, Jerrigan Allen, Tiffany Beach, Tyler Bounds, Stacy Lewis, Mindy Andrews, Angel Ruffin, Cori Walker and Garnett Gordon. Third row – Conner Patel, Anjela Beato, Lois Hughes, Ayla Green, Savanna Tadlock, Skyla Draughn, Canaan Stringer, Dakota Madden, Amanda McGrew, Cody Long, Ladavion Ford, Jonah Ruffin and Mathew Woo. Top row – Jed Craft, Carson Ellington, Jackson Rogers, Jon’Maree Corley, Arieona Corley, Mike Howell, Alondon Magee, Ian Thornton, Karrington Breland, Leilani Aguilar, Hunter White, Jordan Ezell and Gabrielle Hodges.
Graduates from the Hancock County area included from right: First row – Benette Guillory Jr., Yazmin Pryor, Jeremiah Garcia, Gavin Goodman, Jena-Rae Chasteen, Jaiden Carpenter, Tara Jelsma, Keilee Lively, Gwendolyn Eagen, Michelle Clark and Amani Smith. Second row – Anayanci Quintana, Brandon Winslow, Sarah Winslow, Fernanda Ramalho de Souza, Chiquita Acker, Caraline Sanford, Curstin Rester, Haleigh Hall, Kaden Houston, Quatavious Johnson and Taren Troullite. Top row – Brandon Winter, Sage Lauga, Mindy Autin, Shanna Theil, Ely Ladner, Trenton Marisco, Preston Bernard and Stanley Moore III.
Graduates from the Pearl River and Marion County areas include from left: First row – Madison Troglen, Brylee Smith, Savannah Ellender, Kiley Raines, Alyssa Wheat, Beverly Johnson, Michala Gipson, Raven Welsh, Erika Forbes, Caleb Anderson, Amber Lambert, Jillian Hollis, Tairyn Greer, Joshua Brister and Ashlynn Conerly. Second row – Carly Odom, Faith Ann Miley, Rianna Fortenberry, Eaven Bazor, Michael Christensen, Rachel Strauss, Autumn Green, Madison Clark, Jasmine Ladner, Ashton Warden, Sadie Reine, Jessica Johnson, Emma Ladner, Alysa Allemand and Logan Dixon. Top row – Angel Batiste, Landon Williams, Gregory Davis, Jourdan Travis, Clayton Clark, Michael Kirkland, Joanna White, Mikayla Morrison, Kaitlyn Berghman, Courtney Ladner, Hunner Mitchell and Katina Scheuermann.
Pearl River Community College had eight students graduate May 25 at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg from the PRCC Youth SPARK Program, a WIOA youth initiative designed to help high school graduates, college graduates and youth who may need a High School Diploma. In the program they gain Financial Literacy Skills, Social Skills, Job Searching Skills, Interview Strategy Skills, Career Guidance, Life Skills, and Paid Work Experience. Supportive services are available and paid incentives are awarded for successful completion of program requirements. Graduates included from left: Hunter White, Mathew Wood, Gabriell Hodges, Anna Grace Odom, Kaitlyn Odom, Brittany Weber, Angel Ruffin and Jonah Ruffin.
Article by Chuck Abadie. Photography by River Roderick.