Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress
Every parent dreams of the day his or her child crosses the stage and receives a diploma.
On Saturday, Alaina Riggs Brooks' spiritual family at Blackjack Baptist Church cheered on as their beloved friend received her GED certificate from the Jacksonville Literacy Council.
She wanted to celebrate with her congregation because “they mean just as much to me as my real family,” Brooks said, adding that her grandmother is also a member of the congregation.
While many students are happy to do something at the literacy council office with friends ad family, this marks the first time council members have been part of a larger community celebration.
“Most of the time, these ceremonies are held in our office, and (graduates) have a few friends and family to join them,” explained Sam Hopkins, president of the local council.
“This time, Alaina's church wanted to honor her, so there was a covered dish luncheon and she invited neighbors and friends to celebrate with her.”
Program director Nancy Sonntag, who with Hopkins presented the young woman with her certificate, called it “a wonderful afternoon.”
“Alaina is the first one who wanted to more than just take a picture (in cap and gown) in our office. When we talked about it, she mentioned her church family and said, 'maybe we could have it (at Blackjack Baptist),'” Sonntag recalled.
“I told her we needed to check first – it's a very small congregation, and the pastor put it to the members, and they said it would be okay.”
Each student in the GED program has the choice of how they want to mark the occasion, “but this is the first time we've celebrated with (a student's) church family,” she said. “It was just wonderful.”
Hopkins said that the congregation's wholehearted support of Alaina's request doesn't surprise him: “The literacy council works very closely with churches, and we get a lot of dedicated volunteers from there – the churches are our most active and best community partners.”
The local council, founded in 1992 to meet educational needs of the community, offers English as Second Language and GED prep classes Tuesdays at Jacksonville College. In July, it will begin offering students 12 classroom hours a week, compared to the four hours now offered, Hopkins said.
Classes are free of charge, with an open enrollment.
Brooks, who hopes to someday work at an animal clinic to be able to help a better future for her husband Brandon, and their two-year-old son Laine, is considering online college classes to meet that goal.
In the meantime, she encouraged others to consider getting their GED, because “as long as there's someone able to help you study for it, it's never too late to get it,” she said. “And the literacy council is alway there to help.
Jacksonville Literacy Council is located at 215-A Commerce St.
For more information about programs offered, contact the literacy office at 903-586-6125 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.