Perseverance pays off with Arkansas High School Diploma

Tuesday, February 26, 2013
Shannon Atkinson (left) has worked on and off for years to get her GED High School Diploma and is now enrolled in college. Pictured with her are Susan Robinson, ANC-Leachville adult education teacher; and Beth Thompson, ANC adult education coordinator.

Shannon Atkinson of Leachville can't help being a little emotional when she talks about passing the GED (General Educational Development) test and receiving her Arkansas High School Diploma. It was a true test of perseverance as she has worked and dreamed of completing her high school equivalency test for over 20 years.

Shannon has never taken education for granted and has been enrolled in GED classes off and on for 24 plus years.

Like many other young people, for one reason or another, she dropped out of high school. She was one week and three days into her junior year when she left.

She married and had children and went on with her life, but she always thought about completing her high school education.

Shannon Atkinson

When her daughter was about six months old, Shannon decided to get her GED and started classes for the first time, then held at the Leachville Community Center. The classes now are held at the Leachville branch of Arkansas Northeastern College.

"I would go awhile and then get discouraged and drop out," she said.

In October of last year, her husband was diagnosed with kidney cancer and she spent a lot of time in the hospital with him. She decided she would get her GED and continue her education to become a nurse.

She admits math was a challenge to her and a few years ago she would never have believed she could master fractions well enough to pass the test.

Shannon praises the teachers and staff at ANC in Leachville as they encouraged her every step of the way. She gives special credit to Susan Robinson, a teacher with a strong math background in education who helped her understand math; Beth Thompson, the ANC adult education coordinator who encouraged her not to give up and keep going, and Candie DePriest, the ANC career coach who has a master's degree in social work and has been helpful in getting her started on her college classes and her career path.

When she was not in class, Shannon said, Thompson would send her a message on Facebook asking her where she was and letting her know they missed her.

"Beth wrote in my notebook a message telling me I could achieve many goals and I should never give up," Shannon said. "That helped keep me going."

She is proud to get her diploma and is looking forward to the graduation ceremony, to be held in June at the Melody Theater in Leachville.

Shannon's husband, father and two children have been very encouraging to her, as well, and are all very proud of her for receiving her GED.

Shannon's daughter is now 25 years old and her son is a senior at Buffalo Island Central High School. She also has a three-year-old grandson. She hopes to be a good role model for all of them.

"We are proud of Shannon," Robinson said. "We knew she could do it. She is a success story. We have watched her get frustrated but not give up."

"I want to thank Beth, Susan and Candie for helping me achieve my goal of earning my GED and encouraging me to go on to college," Shannon said.

The GED is made up of two sections of math (math I and math II), science, social studies, language arts reading, and language arts writing.

"We helped Shannon to get out of her comfort zone and work with the math she had dodged through the years," Thompson said. "When she was ready to test, we did not give her time to get nervous. We took her to Paragould in December to take the test."

Shannon passed the test and was ready to start college classes in January. She is looking forward to her future.

Thompson and her staff encourage anyone interested to stop by the adult education center and see what is there to help them earn their GED, start college classes, or help in job/career fields.

"We help students with job skills and put them in touch with teams such as the career pathway program, EOC's Trio Program and more," Thompson said. "We can show them what financial aid is available for college. ANC helps students in the comfort of their own community as they work toward their education and career goals."

The GED program will be changing starting in January 2014, and the ANC staff encourages everyone to "get in and get started." It will be computerized. The classes will continue to be free but there will be a charge for the testing starting in January.

"My message to anyone considering working on their GED is not to wait until fall," Thompson said. "I foresee November and December being busy with full test sessions and a waiting list."

Robinson encourages young people who have only been out of school a short time to get in and start on their GED.

"Some of them are still eligible for the lottery scholarships and ANC has scholarships for those who qualify and earn their GED," Robinson said. "We have students who need very little preparation to be ready to take the test. We work with the students to figure out what they need and help them achieve their goal as quickly as possible."

"Earning the GED High School Diploma is not a giveaway," Thompson said. "It is an accomplishment. All of our teachers who work in the adult education go through the steps and take the practice test so they will know what the students go through. I have had several instructors surprised at how intense the GED study is."

Thompson said they all work together to help the students reach their goals.

Teaching adult education classes has been rewarding for her, Robinson added. "Again, we encourage anyone who is interested to come by ANC and get started."

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