April Mize was a typical student at Ohatchee High School back in 1998. She enjoyed spending time with friends and planning for her future. Then, the unexpected happened. She got pregnant at 16 years old.
“I left high school and was homeschooled,” she said. “It just wasn’t in the cards for me to continue being a traditional high school student and a young mother.”
After the birth of her son, Christopher, she focused on motherhood and got a job at Sonic Drive-In in Alexandria. Eventually, Mize had two more children, Gavin, now 11, and Madison, 6, and for 10 years, she has supported her family on her fast food service wages. It hasn’t been easy living paycheck-to-paycheck for the single mother.
“I woke up one January morning and decided I didn’t want to work in fast food for the rest of my life,” she said. “I want my children to be proud of me.”
Mize decided to further her education at Gadsden State Community College. She soon found out that the diploma she earned through her homeschooling program is not accepted by public colleges and universities. She was told she had to earn her general equivalency diploma and, in 2013, she enrolled in refresher courses to prepare her for the GED test.
“I really wanted to earn my GED; to be in college,” she said. “I was determined. The refresher courses were necessary because I had been out of school for such a very long time. I was willing to sit in the floor if they didn’t have room for me. I was willing to do whatever it took for me to be successful.”
The refresher courses and the encouragement she received from Gayle Barker, an adult education instructor, led her to earning one of the top scores on the GED in the state of Alabama.
“Ms. Barker was such an inspiration to me,” she said. “She has encouraged me throughout this process.”
When Mize earned her GED at 32 years old, Barker encouraged her to attend the graduation ceremony.
“Because I was older, I didn’t want to go to graduation but she convinced me that I earned the right to be there and I should be proud of my accomplishment,” Mize said.
It was during the graduation ceremony that Mize found out that she earned a full-tuition scholarship to Gadsden State for two years.She just had to figure out what degree she would pursue.
“I thought about being a pharmacist or an operating technician,” she said. “I knew I wanted to be in healthcare but I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do. Because I have always enjoyed anatomy, I fell in love with radiology. God just pulled me in that direction.”
Mize applied to Gadsden State’s highly-competitive Radiology Technologies program.
“When I found out that a lot of people apply to the program but they only accept 22, my heart just sank,” she said. “I prayed long and hard about it. My attitude was if God wants me to be at Gadsden State, He’ll make it happen.”
Mize was accepted into the program and is in her second semester. In addition to college courses and clinicals, she still works three days a week at Sonic and has a part-time job at Northeast Orthopedics, where she plans to work as a radiology technician following graduation. It hasn’t been easy but the hard work has been worth it.
“There are days I sit down and cry but I pick up myself and I pick up my books and I keep trying,” she said. “I don’t want pity. Even though I have struggles, God has provided a way for me.”
Mize has a 3.65 grade point average and plans to graduate in May 2017. It’s the same graduation date for her son, Christopher, who is a dual enrollment student in Gadsden State’s Welding program.
“By the grace of God, we are succeeding in this life,” she said. “God has provided a way for us and I have no doubt that He’ll continue if this is His will for me.”
People who want to follow in Mize’s footsteps and earn their GED can do so at Gadsden State. The College’s Adult Education program offers basic education skills and GED preparation at no cost to students in Calhoun, Cherokee, Cleburne and Etowah counties at 20 instructional sites that serves up to 1,900 people annually. In addition to GED classes, English-as-a-Second Language classes are offered through this program.
“The Adult Education program was designed to provide an avenue for individuals to gain the basic academic skills needed to obtain their GED so they will be better prepared for further education and training to enter the workforce,” said Johnny Baker, director of Gadsden State’s Adult Education Services
Those who are 17 years old or older and did not graduate from high school are encouraged to sign-up by calling 256-835-5462. While the preparation classes for the GED test are totally free, students are charged a GED testing fee of $120. Successful student progression in the GED classes can earn them payment vouchers toward the GED testing fee up to $100.
“The Adult Education program graduates true success stories, like April Mize,” Baker said. “Our students come from all walks of life and some have experienced seemingly insurmountable obstacles before – and sometimes during – their participation in the program. But, they still complete the classes, earn their GED and move on to higher education or employment opportunities. We are looking for Gadsden State’s next success story.”