Mary Breeden realizes dream of a lifetime

Wednesday, May 28, 2008
Mary Breeden, 73, is excited to learn how to use a computer and surf the web.

Mary Breeden, 73, of Leachville has fulfilled the dream of her lifetime this week--earning her GED after nearly 57 years of wishing.

Mrs. Breeden enrolled at Arkansas Northeastern College in Leachville last year to study for her GED accreditation, after dropping out of high school in 1951. Her instructor, Shearyl Cooley, notified her Tuesday, May 20, that she had met all of the requirements necessary to complete her GED. Students and friends gathered around Mrs. Breeden as she was fitted for her cap and gown. The official graduation ceremony will be held on June 14, on the Blytheville campus, but nothing could have been more exciting to the graduate than feeling the long gown being draped over her shoulders and the placement of the mortarboard on her head.

"I feel like a queen who has just received her crown," Mrs. Breeden said. "I have dreamed of this all my life. When I left the tenth grade at Childress High School, I didn't leave my desire to someday graduate from high school. I always had the desire, but never had the opportunity.

Mary Breeden (left) is fitted for her cap and gown by GED instructor Shearyl Cooley with Arkansas Northeastern College in Leachville. Mrs. Breeden will receive her GED June 14.

"I started using the ANC library when we moved to Leachville and found myself surrounded by college students. I became friends with the students and instructors. I asked Mrs. Cooley about the GED program and she gave me a lot of material and advice. She encouraged me to give it a try.

"I was so eager that I finished all the main requirements during that first year, except one--math. I had to study real hard to finish that portion, as it was difficult for me. I was determined to conquer it, and I did. When Mrs. Cooley told me Tuesday I had passed the course, I just wanted to jump for joy. At last I was going to get to be a high school graduate."

"Wearing my cap and gown was the thrill of a lifetime, for sure," she said. "I can hardly wait to tell all my children and grandchildren I have made it. If I can do this they can too. I hope I will be an encouragement to them to finish high school and go on to college if at all possible. It is never too late to fulfill dreams. All you have to have is the desire and the dream.

"The people here at ANC have been so helpful to me. They always take time to explain things to me and point me in the right direction. I can tell they really care about me, and they want me to succeed. They don't want me to just stop with my GED, but are encouraging me to learn new things. I plan to master the use of the computer. This is opening a whole new world to me. Now when I hear my grandchildren talking about the Internet and searching for things online, I will know what it is all about, and can do the same thing. Learning is so exciting and it is bringing such joy to my life and to those around me."

Mrs. Breeden is the daughter of R.T. and Emmer Henderson Roberts, of the Childress Community north of Monette. The Roberts were sharecroppers in 1935 when Mary was born, and she grew up working in the cotton fields like all the children of farmers did in that era. She left school at age 16 to marry Walter Morgan. They had one daughter, Sharon Kay Morgan . Mary later married Douglas Cox and went on to have nine more children, which included Linda Sue Hill, Louise Nail, Melissa Pannels, Ann Houseman, William Cox, Donald Cox, Wayne Cox, David Cox and Michael Cox.

"I married James Breeden in 1973," Mrs. Breeden said. "I had 10 children and he has eight. That was quite a combination of children. Needless to say, through all the years, all the children, and all the jobs I had to help make a living, going back to school seemed an impossible dream for me. Survival was the most important thing when the children were young and needed me. Now that they are grown my life has changed and I have more time to call my own.

"Dreams are wonderful things. They keep you going when the times are hard. All our dreams don't come true, but they are good dreams nevertheless. Just knowing that one of my dreams has come true opens the possibility that more of them might come true also. It is never too late to try.

"When people tell you college opens the door to opportunity, they are telling the truth. I can hardly sleep at night thinking about all the things I want to do in this life."

"My husband is not healthy," she said. "He has Alzheimers and we spend a lot of time at home. Now I can pick up a book and read to him, and he never gets tired of the stories I have to tell him. We fill a lot of hours just talking about life and our future. It seems to give him joy hearing about all the possibilities out there. I keep praying for new breakthroughs for Alzheimers. I read everything I can on the subject. It helps us all endure the present while hoping for the future.

"When I was young I wanted to be a nurse. I have the natural instincts for nursing and being a caretaker. I read everything I can get my hands on about Alzheimers. Reading encourages me and helps me endure the present situation while hoping for the future. Hope is a strong word. Hope and prayer have got me through all these years, raising all these children and dealing with all the struggles. Hope, no doubt, will carry me through."

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