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Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Never too late

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Jessica Whitehead [Order this photo]
* LEAAP Center helping resident

It's never to late to go back and get an education.

"As soon as I was able to I quit school," Jessica Whitehead said. "It was the biggest mistake of my life."

At 16-years-old Whitehead made a decision that, as the years have gone by, she now regrets. She is now 22-years-old with two young children, and she has returned to get the education that she gave up on years ago. Hoping her story can deter others from walking her path, she wants to be able to stop one student from quitting school.

"I didn't like school and I hung out with the wrong crowd," she said.

It was a party type of lifestyle that had serious consequences on her education.

"I got into fights and lots of trouble," she said. "But now I look back, and I really see how immature it was."

"It is so hard to start over at 22 with two kids," she added. "It's hard to get a job without an education. You won't do what you want to do or make the money you want to make without it."

Enrolled in the Family Literacy Program at the Linking Education to Adults, Adolescents and Preschoolers (LEAAP) Center, she is working hard to attain her General Educational Diploma (GED).

The Family Literacy Program provides assistance that parents with children six weeks to five years of age may need in order to earn their high school diploma, pass their GED test, or to improve their basic skills. Childcare and transportation is provided. Parents also participate in parenting classes and Parent and Child Together (PACT) time.

It is because of the childcare that Whitehead is able to take part in the program. She knows that her children are being looked after while she is in class and she is able to focus on her studies.

"My children are my biggest inspiration," she said. "I want to better their lives."

"Jessica is determined to improve her education level, and she will be successful." LEAAP Center Coordinator Mary Yelton said. "Obviously, she is very dedicated to doing what's best for her children."

There are new challenges every time Whitehead begins working on a new subject and it makes her regret quitting school even more.

"I study hard for every test," she said. "I have to continue taking the test until I pass."

Whitehead is one of many students at the LEAAP Center currently working to accomplish her goals, and there are many more like her in the community.

"It is imperative that parents who do not have their GED or high school diploma or need to review basic skills have that opportunity to improve their education," Yelton said. "So they not only have the ability to enroll in postsecondary education and training to find a better job, but they are also able to support and help their children to be successful in school."

The balancing act of school and motherhood can sometimes cause stress, but Whitehead continues to move forward, knowing that it will be worth it in the future.

"As hard as it is I still push myself," she said. "If I don't do this, then when my children grow up they will ask me why they should finish school because I didn't."

It's her children and all the people that continue to support her, which continue to motivate her.

"It's Mary who pushes me and tells me I can do it. Andrea Herbet at Cumberland Academy that has been there through it all not only as my counselor but as a friend," Whitehead said. "It's everyone who volunteers in the nursery at the LEAAP Center to take care of my children. I'm so grateful to everyone."

Without the Family Literacy Program, many people wouldn't have the opportunity to get their GED. But it isn't only volunteers and teachers at LEAAP it's the community support that the program relies on.

"It is important that the citizens of Clay County support the families and this very intensive program, which addresses the challenges, many parents face when they try to improve their level of education," Yelton said. "We are grateful for the organizations and individuals who have provided assistance through donations, referrals, support, and volunteer service."

While Whitehead continues studying with the goal of one day becoming a nurse, she hopes her story will help other teenagers to stop and think before they make the same choices she did.

"If I can reach out to just one student to stop them from dropping out," she said. "Then it was worth it."

For more information on volunteering or making a donation, call Yelton at 446-2536.

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Mary also helped push me to get my GED and go to college through this program that I graduated from 4 years ago...Mary is a good woman and helps alot of people, Thank you Mary!

-- Posted by SKCC on Sun, Apr 18, 2010, at 9:36 PM

As we get older, people generally discover that there are far worse things in life than going to school. Good for Jessica that she figured it out. Going back to school once you have responsibilities isn't impossible, but it does make it a lot more difficult. Take it one day at a time and don't give up. Good luck!

-- Posted by My opinion counts on Mon, Apr 19, 2010, at 8:59 AM

I graduated high school with two children and I was married. I have went to Ivy Tech and IBC and now attend ISU, and I am in the military. I am proof that you can do anything you set your mind too.....congrats Jessica:)

-- Posted by proud mom and soldier on Mon, Apr 19, 2010, at 10:41 PM


What an inspiration you are to teenagers and young adults in our community. You see your past mistakes, but are working hard to do what is right for yourself and your children.

I'm 42 years old and I have been enrolled in college for ten years while raising my boys, taking care of my family, and working. Have I wanted to give up? Yes, many times over the years. But if I give up, then I have let God and my family down...and myself. I should graduate next spring. I've had many stumbling blocks that have kept me from finishing years ago, (the latest...the passing of my dear mother) but I will not give up and I don't want you to either!

So, if someone my age can do it, then be assured you can too. You will never regret going through the hard work that you have put into getting your GED and then furthering your education. The goals you set and achieve will build your self-esteem and confidence more than words can say!

I know Mary Yelton personally, and she is an angel who puts in many hours to help motivate and encourage people to improve their lives. She is an example to others that working hard can make a difference.

God bless you Mary and those individuals who work and volunteer for the Literacy Program. You are all angels.

Keep going Jessica...reach for those big stars in the sky! The bonus will most likely be some day watching your own children do the same thing because you did!


Lisa Alsip

-- Posted by lissco on Tue, Apr 20, 2010, at 1:12 AM

Good for anyone who goes back or goes on with their education!

There are many cliche's such as "the more you learn, the more you earn" and the like. I'll just put that one in.

Homo Sapien is a "learning" species. We learn in the womb, we learn something every day of our lives, and the moment of our death will be a learning experience for every one of us. Education is a way of channeling that learning into something productive vice something non-productive or, even, criminal as defined within our society.

-- Posted by Leo L. Southworth on Tue, Apr 20, 2010, at 6:40 PM

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