JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - More high school dropouts in South Mississippi will get an opportunity to learn a job skill and get their GED, all at no cost to them. A generous grant will allow Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College to expand its Transitions Academy. The academy will soon open a new class in Jackson County.
Don Robinson is trying to reshape his life. The Pascagoula man dropped out of high school at the age of 17. It's a decision he says he regrets every day.
"It's been pretty difficult, me not having a GED, not having experience. It's kind of tough. I've been getting some temporary jobs," said Robinson.
Now, with a wife and seven children to provide for, Robinson is picking up new welding skills at the Transitions Academy.
"It's been a learning experience for me, but I love it," said Robinson.
The Transitions Academy started at the West Harrison County campus last fall. Now, a $300,000 grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation will help support the program for the next three years. That means more high school dropouts and low-income students can get free training in welding, take GED prep classes, earn college credit and receive an industry certification.
"I got my GED already, and I'm learning how to weld and I really love it," said Natasha Clark, of Long Beach. "I think it's amazing. Normally you can't even get your GED for free, unless you're under 26 years old, let alone have a company give you a shot at a job."
The Kellogg grant will also allow MGCCC to expand the Transitions Academy to the Jackson County campus. Starting in January, MGCCC will offer a ship fitting class for up to 20 students.
"It was great news. This is something the students need. Ship fitting is an area, those are the people who are building, as they say, the walls for the ships. That's just the demand that will be definitely in need in Jackson County since they are close to Ingalls," said MGCCC Adult Basic Education Director Becky Layton.
Ingalls is where Robinson hopes to work when he graduates from the academy.
"It was a blessing, a blessing from God. I thank Him daily. This is an amazing opportunity. Anybody out there that's looking for a career, this is where you need to be," he said.
The Mississippi Community College Board will match the Kellogg grant by pitching in an additional $300,000 over a three year period.
For more information about the Transitions Academy, call 228-563-2221.