Above: Courtney Everman, 18, of Diamondhead, works on a bulletin board in her Early Childhood Education Technology class at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Transitions Academy in Long Beach.

Classes began on August 21, with 24 students who are earning their GED and getting 15 hours of college credit in either Early Childhood Education or Welding during the one-semester academy. Students who graduate will not only receive their GED, but certifications in the college program along with the college credit, so they can either continue college or get a job immediately.

Students at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Transitions Academy began their first day of classes on August 21, with enthusiasm and a sense of purpose. The newly renovated West Harrison County Center in Long Beach includes GED classes along with college programs in both Early Childhood Education Technology and Welding.

Becky Layton, director of Adult Basic Education, said that once the first semester of the academy proves successful, the college offerings will be expanded to include Banquet and Catering Services and Business and Office Technology. And the Academy has already seen success with renovations being made, staff hired, and 24 students being qualified and beginning the program in a little over a month.

“This has been an incredible journey already,” Layton said.  “The staff here, and the college administration, has worked very hard to make this academy a reality. We are all very excited to get started and prove what a wonderful opportunity this is for our students and for the community.”

Students were just as happy about their first day of classes, smiling as they went about the work of getting their class supplies and reviewing a class syllabus. “My parents told me about seeing a news story on the Academy,” said Joseph Richards, 24, of Long Beach. “I’ve been wanting to get my GED for five years, so it was thrilling to hear that I could possibly come here and get a GED and college credit at the same time.”

Courtney Everman, 18, of Diamondhead, said she feels fortunate to get in the Academy. “I have basically lived all over the place, which made it difficult for me to finish high school,” she said. “And while I wanted to get my GED, I also wanted more. I was happy to hear that there was a program nearby that allowed me to do just that. Now, I’m on my way to college credit in a career field I know I’ll like.”

MGCCC, already the single-largest GED-awarding institution in the state, launched the Academy to provide an opportunity for adults without a high school diploma to simultaneously earn a GED credential and 15 hours of college credit in a career field. By the end of the semester in December, most of these students should complete the Academy, and the best part is that the academy is free to students who qualify.

“The program integrates academic skill development, career advising, work-readiness training, and occupation-specific training through ABE and college-level courses,” said Layton. “When they finish the Academy in one semester, they will have completed their GED certification, will receive their first semester of college credit in a career or technical program, and will have industry certification that will help them get a job.”

Ingalls Shipbuilding has already committed to offering entry-level jobs to the Academy’s successful welding completers.

“Most jobs now require a high school diploma,” Layton said. “And those with diplomas and some college have a better chance at a job and at making a significantly better salary.  Add the industry certification to that, and they will have a much greater potential for success in a career and in life.”

Students must be at least 18 years old and Mississippi residents.  During orientation, students will take the TABE, Compass and CRC assessments and must test out at least a seventh-grade level to enter the academy. Priority seating in each program will be given to the adults scoring highest on the assessments. Additionally, students will be required to submit to a drug test and/or a background test if required by the program they choose to enter.

For more information about the Academy, which will begin new classes in January 2015, call (228) 563-2221 or email tacademy@mgccc.edu.

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