Student Success Stories

Crystal Perry​

October 2017 - Crystal Perry​

Crystal Perry is a 31-year-old student, attending night classes in McMinnville, TN. Perry has dedicated much of her adult life to helping others. She is currently employed as a home health aide for the elderly in her community, where she spends her days ensuring that her clients are kept comfortable and in good company. She is responsible for transporting them to their appointments, making sure that they take their required medications, preparing meals, and providing them with opportunities to enjoy various recreational activities throughout the day. 

Although she remains very busy as a wife and mother, Perry continues to give of herself in order to make her community a little better each day. After earning her high school equivalency diploma, she plans to further her education so she can advance her career, allowing her to continue serving and positively impacting others, all while providing more for her own family. 

Congrats Crystal Perry​​, our October Student Success Story!

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September 2017 - Gloria and Brandon Otuagoma

Before Gloria Otuagoma and her son Brandon moved to the United States from Germany in 2016, Gloria came to Fayette Literacy’s office to inquire about educational services for Brandon.

When Brandon enrolled in Fayette County Adult Education in May 2016, the staff assured him that, taking it a step at a time, he could be successful. With so many educational skills to acquire, Brandon worked diligently, one step at a time, to acquire the skills he needed. He came to class regularly, studied at home, and worked on HiSET Academy to prepare for the test. By November 2016, he felt confident enough to try his first HiSET exam. He passed the writing subtest in December and kept testing each month.

In the meantime, his mother Gloria decided to enter our Adult Education program to earn her high school equivalency diploma as well.  She knew she would need the credential to secure a quality job. Gloria began in February 2017 and worked for four months, passing all of her tests by June.

Her son still had one more test to pass. It would be his last chance this year to take the reading subtest. In July, fourteen months after beginning Adult Education, he took his final test – and passed! Finally, mother and son could graduate together!

Congrats the Otuagomas, our September Student Success Story!

Kito Martin

August 2017 - Kito Martin

In an attempt to better his life, Kito Martin relocated from California to Tennessee. Martin decided he needed to earn a High School Equivalency (HSE) diploma. He researched Tennessee's Adult Education program and set up an orientation appointment at Rivergate Learning Center (RLC). Encouraged by the staff, Martin really enjoyed the atmosphere and enrolled in classes.

He showed determination by overcoming several personal barriers. Martin did not always have reliable transportation, but was later able to purchase his own car. He even refused to allow health issues to become an excuse for not achieving his goal! When notified that he did not pass the HiSET on his first try, he was determined to pass on the next try. While he worked part-time, Martin attended two classes a day to prepare for the HiSET and on his next attempt, he passed the test. Since earning his diploma, Martin found a full-time job and is currently researching college opportunities.

Martin always showed up to class with a smile on his face and determination in his heart. He showed great determination through the entire process of earning his HSE diploma. He came to class every chance he could and always had a positive attitude. RLC staff use his story whenever able to help motivate other students!

Congrats to Kito Martin, our July Student Success Story!

Wesley Dunbar

July 2017 - Wesley Dunbar

When Wesley Dunbar decided to do something different with his life, he was unsure of his options. He did not have his high school equivalency (HSE) diploma, but he always heard about the importance of earning a HSE. After keeping himself up at night questioning his life’s purpose, Dunbar decided he wanted to serve in the U.S. Army. He would be the third person in his family to serve. After speaking with the Recruiting Officer, Dunbar learned that he would need to earn that high school equivalency diploma before enlisting.

Dunbar enrolled in the Northeast State Community College program. His instructors guided and encouraged him, and he passed every HiSET subtest except for math. Even with this setback, Dunbar persevered and passed the math subtest on his second try. Passing the HiSET has given him a renewed confidence to complete any task to which he sets his mind. "This program has forever changed my life. I wish I could show [the instructors] how much [their] help and encouragement means to me,” reflected Dunbar.

Congratulations Wesley Dunbar, July’s Student Success Story!

Stephen Willis

June 2017 - Stephen Willis

Stephen Willis has been a part of the Adult Education program since May 2015 and has almost 200 hours of studying! He has worked very hard to accomplish his goal of obtaining a high school equivalency (HSE) diploma.

Often throughout the process, Willis was unable to attend class because of conflicts with his work schedule. Still, he worked hard at home studying to stay on track. Always with a smile on his face, Willis came to class ready with questions, never complaining about the long process for earning a HSE. Willis knew that he was doing the right thing by working hard to earn his diploma! Since passing the HiSET, he has visited the class location to encourage other students to do their best and thank each teacher who helped him along the way. Willis is a perfect example of overcoming barriers and accomplishing the goals; he set out to accomplish a task despite the struggles that accompanied the tedious and time-consuming journey.

As he worked in the electrical industry, Willis attended multiple colleges and completed special certifications through multi-year programs to help him advance in his job. He had a high school diploma prior to starting our program, which was accepted by most organizations. However, during the enrollment process at Nashville State Community College, Willis was informed his diploma was in fact not official. In lieu of such a setback, he has worked very hard to earn his HSE. Willis plans to enroll in Nashville State Community College to continue his education.

Congratulations, Stephen Willis, June’s Student Success Story!

Fred Fordham

May 2017 - Fred Fordham

When Fred Fordham first came to the Rivergate Learning Center, he was working a night shift at Summit Medical Center. He would come to class from 9-12 after his shift ended, and then go home to rest. After a death in his family, Fordham had to quit coming to take care of family responsibilities. He returned to the RLC in the Fall of 2016, where he faithfully attended class from 9:00 to 11:30. At 11:30, Fordham would leave, so he could start his shift at the hospital at noon.

At the RLC students often work independently. Fordham worked diligently on each module of the Math Module Workbook. When he finished a worksheet, his instructor would help check his answers and discuss why he had missed any of the questions. Each class he showed an increase in his understanding of the material.

When Fordham returned to the RLC in the Fall of 2016, he also had a plan. He had surgery scheduled right after Thanksgiving.  Since he would be out of work for three months recovering from it, he planned to use this time to study even more. Fordham wanted to take the test only once and pass it before he returned to work in March 2017. 

After his surgery in November, Fordham was there when the RLC reopened in January after the holidays. He started coming to class twice a day — in the mornings and evenings. He was wholeheartedly committed to his plan.

The third week of February, Fordham took the HiSet. He passed each subtest over two test days. He passed the whole test the first time he took it; all before he returned to work in March.

Fordham always came to class with a smile on his face and determination in his heart. He was a true joy to teach. Fordham shows what hard work, consistency, and a positive attitude can achieve.

Congratulations Fred Fordham, our Student Success Story for May 2017!


Junior Lubin

April 2017 - Junior Lubin

When Junior Lubin walked into Leslie Travis’ office in District 4, he was determined to earn his high school equivalency diploma, although working tirelessly to support six small children.

With his fiancé completing her own college degree, Lubin's tenacity to make a better life for his family was evident. As he left Travis’ office, he said, “I want my kids to see what you can do if you just put your mind to it!”

Once he earned his diploma at 37 years old, he framed one for his home and a second for his mother. Lubin is now making plans to attend college. 

Congratulations to Junior Lubin, our April 2017 Student Success Story!


Janice Gaither

March 2017 - Janice Gaither

Janice Gaither came to Adult Education in December of 2015. She had been a student before, always coming close to her goal of testing and graduating, but never quite getting there. Gaither had solid scores from her initial intake. She expressed desire to succeed much like any other student, but there was more to her. Gaither was always in class and worked hard on the things she knew were her weaknesses. She focused during instruction, tried hard to hone her skills on essay writing and math, took practice tests constantly to keep sharp on strategies, and asked the instructors about staying fresh with her skills.

Gaither attempted HiSet in the spring of 2016. On her first attempt, she passed everything except for Science and Math. While hoping to move on, she was admittedly discouraged because the pending subjects were her toughest battles. Gaither continued to attend class and, while she may be unaware, served as an inspiration for other students. She combatted her fears of not passing by logging in the hours, staying positive, and allowing the instructors to encourage her every step of the way.

With two subtests left, she was encouraged to take each, one at a time. Gaither took the Science subtest first and passed with a score of 11. She was blown away, but then there was math. After weeks of classes and staying overtime, she passed with a score of 9. In the summer of 2016, she finally won the prize at the age of 65, passing the exam and earning her high school equivalency diploma!

Gaither has not had an easy life as of lately. When she lost her husband in 2009, she found herself not only alone but struggling as well. In the last several years, she has picked herself up, earned her HSE, and enrolled in post-secondary school, although the journey was difficult. There were days when Gaither could not afford to pay the power bill in her apartment, so she slept in her car at night covered under beach towels to stay warm. She told about unfortunate times when she did not have enough food to eat or money to live, but she always had a smile on her face and a tone of perseverance about her. Gaither is a survivor, one who is now enrolled at Northeast State Community College!

Special congrats for Janice Gaither, our March 2017 Student Success Story!

Anna Nelson

February 2017 - Anna Nelson

In District 3 of February 2016, Anna Nelson began her adult education at a level 3. She is a hardworking individual, who never quit once deciding to earn her high school equivalency (HSE) diploma. However, the most powerful quality about Nelson is her positive attitude. Even with a slight language barrier, she was willing to help others. She would even stay after class to help the instructor straighten up. 

Born in the Philippines, Nelson became a U.S. citizen many years ago. She is now a single parent with two children and a full time job. Surpassing many barriers in her way, Nelson earned her HSE. 

Nelson brightened everyone's day, whenever she walked into a room. With a wonderful attitude, Nelson is both dedicated and diligent and an ideal student.

Congratulations Anna Nelson, our February 2017 Student Success Story!

Brandy Burford

January 2017 - Brandy Burford  

Despite the challenges of mothering two, often ill boys and a young girl, Brandy Burford has persevered as a dedicated student with clear determination. So much so, she has returned to adult education classes after passing all subtests, except for math, years ago.

Burford grew up in a dysfunctional, unaccommodating home and her circumstances drove her to drop out of high school. She gave birth to premature twin boys, who still have health problems today at the age of 7.

Motherhood paired with a strenuous job, as a home healthcare professional, does not prevent her from coming to class, fully engaged and determined to learn. Burford dreams of becoming a surgical technician once she completes her education and training.

Congratulations to Brandy Burford, our first 2017 Student Success Story!

Sarah Blevins

December 2016 - Sarah Blevins 

Sarah Blevins is an 84-year-old widow who timidly came into the Carter County Tennessee Adult Education classroom in September 2015. Blevins was accompanied by her daughter, who talked her mother into finally earning her High School Equivalency Diploma after being out of school for 73 years. Because she needed to be at home to help with the farm work and younger children, Blevins had to quit school after the sixth grade.

Although Blevins initial placement test scores were not high, she was determined to learn and to earn her equivalency diploma that surpassed most of our students. She struggled to read the material because she has glaucoma. Even with this obstacle, Blevins was in class every day, in her work uniform, as she went straight to work after class.

With a full-time work schedule and debilitating issues with her eyesight, she never gave up. Instead, Blevins persevered and finally earned her high school equivalency diploma in May 2016. Because she is such an inspiration to so many students, Blevins was the graduate speaker at the June 2016 Adult Education graduation ceremony. Even though she had never spoken publicly, Blevins’ story had the room in tears.

Her failing eyesight may prevent her to continue her educational goal of earning an associate degree, but she has accomplished the original goal of earning her High School Equivalency Diploma.

Congratulations Sarah Blevins, December’s Student Success Story!

Chelsea Grissett

November 2016 - Chelsea Grissett

When Chelsea Grissett first came to Tennessee Adult Education classes in Antioch, she began in low level classes. With hard work and dedication, Grissett conquered various setbacks to earn her High School Equivalency Diploma in August of 2016.

Grissett’s biological mother struggled with drug abuse. Once Grissett was born, her mother knew the best choice was to place her with another family. Unfortunately, Grissett’s adoptive family was also dysfunctional, and, once again, her life was affected by drug abuse. Grissett always knew she did not want that life for herself. When Grissett’s adoptive mother passed away, she had little choice but to drop out of high school at the age of 15. She then moved in with her “Nannie” who loved her, but lived in a rough setting.

For such a young lady, Grissett has experienced an exceptionally dark side of life, but she has overcome the obstacles to be where she is today. Grissett’s teachers and peers are constantly encouraged by her humble attitude. She has learned to surround herself with positive influences like her teachers in the adult education program, Youth CAN mentors, and friends who can help her reach her goals. Now that Grissett has her High School Equivalency Diploma, she has applied to college programs in the Nashville area. She hopes to begin classes in Spring of 2017.

Congratulations, Chelsea Grissett, November’s Student Success Story!

Erica Dillon

October 2016 - Erica Dillon

For four years, Erica Dillon has worked hard to overcome discouragement and barriers so she could earn her High School Equivalency Diploma.

Each evening after work, she would make her way to the Crossville Career Center to work on her math skills. Only one subtest was keeping Dillon from earning her diploma. When the time came, not only did she pass the math portion of the HiSET exam, she scored well above what was needed for her to obtain her diploma.

Dillon plans to enroll at Tennessee College of Applied Technology - Crossville in the Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN) Program, she the plans to continue her education to become a Registered Nurse (RN). With her hard work and dedication, there is no doubt she will achieve her ultimate goal of becoming a Registered Nurse. 

Congratulations to Diana Snelling, October's Student Success Story!

September 2016 - Diana Snelling

Diana SnellingDiana Snelling’s life has not been easy. She has overcome abuse, addiction, and incarceration to be where she is today. Snelling dropped out of school with ad-diction controlling her life. Her mother, ridden with cancer, made her promise to earn her diploma.

During her stay in jail, Snelling participated in high school equivalency classes, and eventually took the test. She did not pass. Determined to succeed, when she was released, Snelling enrolled in classes once again. After overcoming more obstacles, studying countless hours, and retaking the Math portion, she passed the HiSET.

Snelling now works for the same Tennessee Adult Education program that helped her earn her diploma. She is also enrolled in college to become a Social Worker to help victims of child abuse. (Snelling has provided her own recount.)

Congratulations to Diana Snelling, September’s Student Success Story!

August 2016 - Lubliana Garcia

Lubliana Garcia Lubliana Garcia entered the Rhea County Adult Education program as an English Language Learner in March of 2006. She attended over 500 hours of ESOL classes and entered adult education classes in October of 2014.

Since then, Garcia has continued to attend classes regularly and is now enrolled in upper upper-levels. She is the epitome of never giving up. Garcia has diligently worked her way to where she is now and will earn her high school equivalency diploma very soon.

Her positive attitude and dedication toward her goal is an inspiration to all who set out to earn his or her diploma.

Congratulations, Lubliana Garcia, August Student Success Story!


July 2016 - Steve Croom

Steve CroomSteve Croom overcame incarceration, an intense work schedule, and severe medical problems to obtain his High School Equivalency diploma at the age of 58. He dropped out of school in 1974 so he could work to support his family, but he always had the desire to earn his diploma. While incarcerated, Croom began High School Equivalency diploma classes on many occasions, but he was always moved to different correctional centers as soon he would get started.

He enrolled in Chester County Adult Education in 2011 and began his journey towards a diploma. Croom would get up at 3:30 each morning to take his wife to work before he went to work. After his shift ended at his second job, Croom would attend Adult Education classes at 7:30 at night, staying until the instructor needed to go home.

With his intense work schedule, Croom suffered a stroke in 2014, and later, he had a tumor removed in 2015. He was unable to attend class for several months during his recovery. Croom tells his story to other students in hopes they will not make the same mistakes. Because he was denied promotions on several occasions due to his lack of a diploma, Croom wants to continue his education through a Tennessee College of Applied Technology.

Congratulations, Steve Croom!

June 2016 - Sierra Price Keener

Sierra Price Keener Sierra Price Keener came to the Fayetteville community with little more than the clothes on her back. She is now married, has an 18-month-old little girl, and recently passed her HiSET with flying colors. Despite all the hardships she has faced, Keener is determined to make a better life for her husband and daughter. She has enrolled at Motlow State Community College and is seeking a 4-year degree in Business and Marketing.

When Keener first enrolled in the program, she was struggling to make ends meet. She met and married a wonderful young man who saw her as a woman determined to get somewhere in life. Keener’s devotion to her daughter and strong work ethic are reflected in her schoolwork and daily life.

Keener was recently honored by the district Workforce Board and has qualified for the HOPE Scholarship. She impressed all who were present at that meeting and met and spoke with the President of Motlow State Community College, Dr. Kinkle, who enthusiastically set her up with a career coach. Keener is on her way to fulfilling her dreams and is determined to be someone who is successful regardless of her situation.

Congratulations Sierra Price Keener!

May 2016 - Heather Musgrave

Heather MusgraveHaving only a fifth-grade education, Heather Musgrave earned her high school equivalency diploma through the TCAT Nashville program. Being a persistent, strong-willed young woman, she accomplished her goal in just three months. Musgrave now admits filing out job applications caused her embarrassment when she got to the question on the application about education. There were many jobs she could not obtain due to her lack of education. During those months of classes and tests, Musgrave juggled a full-time job a Pet Smart, relationships with family and friends, and a move from Antioch to Nashville. She did all this while picking up babysitting jobs on the side. On May 5, 2015, Musgrave took her last HiSET test and passed. "I have never felt so accomplished in my life! I have completed my goal of earning my diploma just in time for my twenty-first birthday," she said. With the help and encouragement from caring teachers, Musgrave plans to enroll in the Early Childhood Education program at TCAT Nashville

Musgrave said, "Never in my wildest dreams did I foresee myself attending college. Now the opportunity is at my fingertips, and I could not be happier. I am proud of my accomplishments and I cannot wait to continue my education to make my dreams become reality.

Congratulations to Heather Musgrave!

April 2016 - Floyd Pedigo

Floyd PedigoStruggles do not always break us; sometimes they mold us into the strong, determined individuals we are meant to be. This statement holds very true for Floyd Pedigo. He has a level of respect and determination that surpassed our expectations. Pedigo has faced many barriers in his 18 years, but he did not let those barriers stop him from reaching his goal.

Pedigo enrolled into the Adult Education program in December 2015. Within a couple of short months, he met all his requirements and in one attempt passed his HiSET exam. There are many students who enroll and successfully complete the adult education program, but the level of respect and determination Pedigo had every time he walked into class is something to be commended.

At an early age, Pedigo faced the death of a parent and foster care- circumstances that caused him to grow up much faster than most young men his age. With the help of his stepparents, he has worked very hard to make a new beginning for himself. Pedigo has set many goals set for himself and is accomplishing them one by one. he passed the HiSET exam and will proudly walk across the stage in may. He is planning to further his education this fall.

Congratulations to Floyd Pedigo!

March 2016 - Jacob Tomlin

Jacob Tomlin Jacob Tomlin has enrolled in college, a feat that would not have been possible had he not earned his High School Equivalency diploma. When Jacob did not finish high school, he began working in jobs that did not hold promises of secure future earnings. Jacob enrolled in adult education classes at TCAT-Nashville. This motivated him to finish high school and further better himself. When he started classes, he did not seem to realize just how advanced he was. It was as if no one had ever acknowledged his academic potential! Through the constant encouragement of teachers, he fought through transportation and job scheduling issues to complete his HSE in less than six months.

Through his experience Jacob saw his potential and enrolled in college. Various faculty and staff members at TCAT-Nashville  explained the numerous possibilities of college programs in which he could enroll. After researching his options, Jacob started the Welding Program in January on a full scholarship through financial aid programs including TN Reconnect.

Congratulations Jacob Tomlin!

February 2016 - Clara French

Clara FrenchBorn in 1947, Clara is a mature, self-motivated student. She is very helpful in the classroom. Clara shows respect for others and is a role model for the younger generation. She exemplifies the perfect student on time for class, pays attention to the teacher, and works without ceasing.

Clara helps others as much as she is helped. There is a Spanish-speaking man in the classroom trying to learn English. Since Clara is a Spanish speaker, she took it upon herself to assist the individual with the materials. Clara is truly an inspiration to teachers and students.

Clara started in our program in September 2002. She has worked diligently for over 13 years and attended class for 2,167.65 hours. At one point she was attending both day and evening classes. She always puts the time and effort into learning. In December, Clara completed the requirements to obtain her diploma! She plans to return as a tutor in the class to help Spanish-speaking students.

Congratulations Clara French!

January 2016 - Greg Brown

Greg BrownRecognizing the need for his high school diploma, Gregory Brown began taking classes but, as is often the case, life happened and he had to drop his classes in 2006 and in 2011. he decided to give it one more try in 2013. This time, he passed all but the math portion of the test. This depleted his chances of passing before the test made its historical shift in January 2014. With all previous scores wiped away and not much hope of developing the skills for the increased rigor of the HiSET math, Brown found his way to the Hickman County Adult Education program and the capable instruction of Mr. Jimmy Copley. "I called Mr. Copley and since day one, I could tell he was into my education as much as I was," said Brown. "That's what I needed. I'd been out of school for a while and I just needed someone to sit down with me and basically let me know things were going to be all right and that I was going to get it done."

Brown was the recipient of the Learner of the Year award at the Three Rivers Adult Education Commencement, held October 25, 2015 at Hickman County High School. Passing the HiSET and obtaining his diploma makes the dream of furthering his education a reality, Brown plans to pursue an associate's degree and possibly enroll in the state Law Enforcement Academy.

Congratulations Gregory Brown!