Andria Smith left her high school education undone and it turned into 10 years of struggling.
“I played basketball in junior high and at Jim Hill High School,” Smith said. “My math and English grades were good enough to finish.” But, it didn’t happen. The Jackson native, now 29, fell short of earning a diploma back in high school due to one incomplete project her senior year. “I had finished all my courses but didn’t present a project at the end,” she said. “It was the only thing that held me back. I just went along trying to find a job and coming here to Hinds in Jackson to get a high school equivalency.”
She worked jobs in foodservice and hospitality before her recent successful completion of the MIBEST program at Hinds Community College. The program allows adult students to train for a job skill while earning their High School Equivalency certificate at the same time. Students prepared to be job-ready in six months to a year, train in high-demand areas and earn national certifications.
In 2019, Smith enrolled in the program at the Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center, where she decided to complete the Career Certificate program in Welding Technology. The program prepares students for all major types of welding seen in all sectors of the construction industry.
She plans to ace the final portion of the HSE exam later this fall, then pursue a Technical Certificate in Welding at Hinds. Learning to weld, she said, tapped back into her enjoyment of pencil art back in high school. “It was easy for me to weld in straight lines because it was like drawing lines in cartoons I used to make with pencils,” she said.
The key for Smith’s success, according to her instructor, was her preparedness to learn, whatever the challenges. “Andria came to class everyday ready to learn and turned in work on time,” said Shelia Minor, an instructor in the Welding program at JATC. “She was advanced in all of her welding processes, plus she showed enthusiasm both in classroom and welding lab.”
With MIBEST, she said, she knew she had people partnering in her education instead of just going it alone. “Being in MIBEST has taught me to just keep pushing to do better in school and get as much education as I can,” she said. “I had great teachers who made sure I did my work on time.”
Like any great illustration, drawn freehand or welded using expert strokes under a protective shield, her career plan is a work in progress. Only now, she said, life plans are much easier to make with a diploma in hand.
“I hope to get a good job and buy my own house one day,” she said. “And I can do my own welding on it one day.”