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GED students praise Barbara Wortham for her help

Many Lafayette County residents have decided 2016 is the year they will earn their GED.

May Pegues has been attending individual tutoring sessions for more than a year with Adult Basic Literacy Education and is preparing to take the GED within the next few months.

Pegues said she made it all the way into her 11th year in school, but dropped out due to multiple factors. Her regret of never graduating has helped fuel her desire to attain a GED.

“When I used to go to graduations and see other people graduate, my tears would always fall from my eyes,” she said. “I would tell myself, ‘That could’ve been me.’”

After 30 years, Pegues has put her mind to advance herself and focus on her dreams while she is also raising two of her grandchildren.

In the ABLE program, students gather at Burns United Methodist Church for extra help with their GED. The sessions are twice a week, Tuesday and Thursday, at night to give students time to come study after work and pick up children from school. They analyze nonfiction essays on Chinese Silk, Apollo space missions and minimum-wage policy under the tutelage of Lafayette Literacy Council Program Coordinator Barbara Wortham.

“What is the passage talking about?” Wortham asked aloud at a recent class.

Wortham talked through each discussion question with patience and good spirits while her students analyzed. Each attendee was given a chance to engage with one another and express opinions freely as they discussed each writing sample.

While the program gives samples for discussion, it encourages individual independent reading as well.

Pegues has read “The Diary of Anne Frank,” “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings” and “How to Kill a Mockingbird” so far. She said each book had characters that were filled with determination that she could relate to. The resonation has helped her curiosity as well as her resolution.

Likewise faced with challenges and discouragement, Chauncey Pegues dropped out her senior year after she discovered she was pregnant.

“I just gave up and started working,” she said.

Chauncey Pegues is now married with four children. She works in Oxford as a certified nursing assistant through a Water Valley nursing home program.

Two of her sons are in high school and are learning some of the same subjects. She does not let it deter her, but uses it to encourage them to finish high school on time and later attend college.

All of the students present commended Wortham on her pedagogic approach.

“I love the way she teaches,” Chauncey Pegues said.

Wortham consistently communicates her interest in their success. It pays off when her students feel encouraged.

“I’m determined to not let nobody discourage me and to keep on until I finish” getting a GED, May Pegues said. She said after she finishes she wants to possibly take culinary courses because she loves to cook.

Chauncey Pegues said she is considering a career in social work or becoming a beautician. She loves people and wants a chance to work closely with them.

Above all, the sessions help students gain confidence in achieving the unachievable.

“I just feel so good about myself,” May Pegues said. “I don’t have that low self-esteem anymore like I did in the past.”