LONG BEACH, MS (WLOX) - More than 14,000 Mississippi students drop out of school every year. Without a high school diploma or a GED, many people end up with low-wage jobs. This fall, Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College will open an academy for high school dropouts. The program is free to those who qualify.
Wednesday was the first day of orientation for the new Transitions Academy. Thirteen people who never got their high school diplomas took placement tests, hoping to get accepted into the program.
"I'm really optimistic. I feel like I'm doing a good job on the tests," said Tavis Francis, of Gulfport.
Francis dropped out of high school in 2009. The only job he has ever had is cutting grass for his neighbors.
"It's been pretty hard. I've filled out over 50 applications and still haven't made it nowhere," Francis said.
Francis wants to take welding classes. That's what the Transitions Academy will offer, starting this fall at the MGCCC West Harrison County Center in Long Beach. Students who qualify can choose either welding or early childhood development.
During the 18 week program, students can take GED prep classes and tests, earn college credit and receive an industry certification, all at no cost.
"A lot of them have been stopped in their lives, because they've not had that successful GED to help them get a position or get a job or make money to support their family. This is an outlet and a new way to help them succeed," said Becky Layton, MGCCC Adult Basic Education Director.
Gulf Coast administrators say Ingalls Shipbuilding in Pascagoula has agreed to partner with the college to launch the academy. The company will help set up the welding lab and has committed to hiring students who successfully complete the welding program.
"It was like a great opportunity for me. It's hands-on and close in the area, and I know it's something I know I'll be able to succeed in," said Francis.
The academy will accept 15 students in welding and 25 students in the child care program. Orientation sessions will continue every week until the classes are filled.
Students in the academy must be at least 18-years-old and be Mississippi residents. Next January, two more programs may be added: banquet and catering services and business and office technology. For more information about the academy, you can call (228) 563-2221.