Annielyn Null got not only a second chance to graduate from high school, she racked up 21 hours of college credit in the process.
Null was one of 31 Rankin County students who received high school diplomas from their home school through Hinds Community College’s Gateway to College program on June 3.
Last spring, for the first graduation ceremony, only five students graduated. Gateway to College, which began at Hinds in fall 2012, is a Mississippi Works Partnership between Hinds Community College and Rankin County and Pearl schools. The program enrolls high school students in danger of not graduating and allows them to finish high school at the college’s Rankin Campus while also earning college credits.
“Gateway to College changed my life,” said Null, whose diploma is from McLaurin High School.
She worked two jobs throughout high school, placing more importance there instead of on studying. She heard about Gateway to College and decided to apply.
“I saw myself falling off the deep end and Gateway to College wanted to change that,” she said. “The first week was the hardest but I soon realized I wasn’t alone in this. Everyone in the program was there for a reason, just like me. No one was judging anyone, and it was the nicest thing I’d ever seen.
“Every student accepted in Gateway has been given a second chance — a chance to prove everyone who has doubted them, wrong. We have been given this chance to keep going and make something of ourselves,” she said.
Gateway graduates include, front from left, Bianca Aguillar, Florence High, 13 hours of college credit; Taylor Shriver, Brandon High, 36 hours; Regan Clark, Brandon High, 36 hours; Caitlin Dempsey, Brandon High, seven hours; Harlie Jones, Brandon High, 19 hours; Emily Stevens, Richland High, six hours; Freda Washington, Brandon High, 30 hours; Gabrielle Whitesides, Northwest Rankin, 27 hours; Kaylie Teel, Northwest Rankin, 17 hours; middle row, Daniel Barber, Brandon High, 45 hours; Al Rawls, Brandon High, 25 hours; Kaitlyn Weeks, Brandon High, 21 hours; Ryan Greer, Northwest Rankin, 18 hours; Christen Harvey, McLaurin High, 42 hours; Bri’Chale Giles, Northwest Rankin, six hours; Nattilee Berch, Northwest Rankin High, 30 hours; Lori Copeland, Brandon High, 25 hours; Jacolybya Pittman, Northwest Rankin, 26 hours; Lan Le, Brandon High, 35 hours; back row, Taylor Jones, Northwest Rankin, 21 hours; Neely Gore, Northwest Rankin High, 17 hours; Parker Smith, Brandon High, 23 hours; Breanne Babbitt, Northwest Rankin High, 18 hours; Annielyn Null, McLaurin High, 21 hours; Austin Jenkins, Puckett Attendance Center, three hours and Larry Hackman, Brandon High, 45 hours.