Against All Odds
Congratulations to our Graduates
As you know we are always proud of the educational achievements of our youth. We are proud to report that in December 2013 our younger brother, Christopher Richardson, earned his Associate of Arts Degree from East Mississippi Community College and our nephew, Edward Spivey, earned his GED from the Greater Columbus Learning Center in Columbus, MS. Our cousin, Cherae’ Gardner also graduated in May of 2013. She earned her Associate of Arts Degree from Mississippi Delta Community College as a member of Phi Theta Kappa. Cherae’ is currently enrolled at Delta State University. Christopher will continue his education this spring at Mississippi University for Women (admitting men since 1982), and Edward’s goal is to enroll in a community college this summer or fall. We are very proud of each one of them.
Against All Odds
My nephew, Edward, definitely didn’t start his life with a silver spoon in his mouth. When he was two weeks old, he had pneumonia and it caused problems with his oxygen level. When he was two months old, Edward’s biological mother was carelessly holding him over a stove while cooking. Unfortunately, one of his feet landed in the grease causing a severe burn; however, she neglected to immediately take him to the hospital. After several days of non-stop crying he was eventually taken, but too much time had passed to save his right foot. The doctors had to amputate it. At the tender age of four months, after already having his foot amputated, a nurse took him home with adoption in mind. However, she too abused him. When the police picked him up, he had scratches, bruises, and adult fingernail prints to the face, abdomen, and thighs. To make matters worse, she scalded him with hot liquid which was poured down his back and back side causing second degree burns.
Shortly thereafter, a nurse by the name of Verena Spivey, my sister, decided to step in and do something about it. Even though she knew that it would be challenging, Verena and her husband, James, decided to adopt Edward and provide him with the type of loving environment that he had so desperately needed from the beginning. Even though they had good intentions, things didn’t get any easier for any of them. There were many surgeries, many adjustments, and great uncertainty.
Fortunately, Edward was given a prosthetic leg and he learned to adjust to it quite well. He learned how to run, jump, and play with the other kids, but Edward had major issues in the classroom. For some reason, he just couldn’t seem to keep up. Additionally, during a visit to the doctor, Edward was diagnosed with severe ADHD.
Every year, Edward seemed to get further and further behind socially and academically. The kids started picking on him because of his classroom struggles, but they also started bullying him because of his leg. On one occasion, a student took off his leg on the school playground and threw it over a fence into a vacant field. This destroyed his prosthesis and he had to get a new one. On another occasion, a “so called friend” led him into the woods and left him with no direction. Edward also had to deal with kids constantly calling him such names as “stupid” and “dumb.”
In April 2013, Edwards’s father, James, ended up critically ill and was hospitalized due to an unknown illness for 7 weeks. Shortly after being released from the hospital, James and Verena were severely injured in a car accident. With the December deadline quickly approaching, it seemed as if Edward’s chances of getting his GED were slim.
During the summer of 2013, while his dad was in the hospital, Edward was brought to Columbus, Mississippi to temporarily live with my husband and me. During that time, he was enrolled in GED classes at the Greater Columbus Learning Center (GCLC) which put him back on track to finish school. The director of GCLC, Darren Jordan, was loved by many in the community of Columbus because of his genuine concern for the youth and his reputation for really pushing them to reach their full potential. Under his leadership, the GCLC was equipped with an unbeatable staff. GED Instructor Linda Sullivan was named the Mississippi Association of Adult and Community Education’s 2011-2012 Teacher of the Year, and GED Examiner Alicia Prude was named the Mississippi Association of Adult and Community Education’s 2011-2012 Support Staff of the Year. GCLC also had numerous other very dedicated staff members that went above and beyond to help their students succeed.
When presented with the daunting task of helping Edward pass his GED, Jordan immediately assigned him to Sullivan. It was a struggle at times, but Sullivan eventually got through to him. Gradually, Edward started to have more focus, and he seemed to be more self-motivated. After attending Mrs. Sullivan’s class during the day, Edward would spend his evenings going over vocabulary words with me or going over math problems with his Uncle Mike. He also benefited from the kindness of Linda Winston, another exceptional GCLC instructor. Winston voluntarily worked overtime to offer additional math instruction as the deadline approached. The entire GCLC staff made every effort to make sure that every student that wanted to get their GED had the best shot possible.
After receiving a compliment for his dedication to helping others, a man by the name of Wendell Timothy once said, “If only one person benefits, I am satisfied.” I would imagine that staff members of GCLC shared those same sentiments as they worked long days and into the night to make sure that as many students as possible had a chance to beat the deadline.
Currently, Edward is back home with his parents. His grandfather, Earsley Young, is teaching him carpentry, and Edward is making plans to take the ACT very soon. Edward may even enroll in a community college next fall. His parents are recovering well from the car accident, and James is doing a lot better since being released from the hospital. With his GED behind him, I am sure that there is a bright future ahead for Edward Spivey.
Edward Spivey’s Journey (video)
Queens of the second chance: Columbus pair earns honors for their work with adult learners