Wyatt Stringer understands how the world works and wants to build it better through his newfound skills in woodworking.
He understood it a little too well in high school, though, and boredom was intense enough to delay his diploma. “For me, I just lost interest in all the repetition of basic skills and not learning enough specialized skills you can actually make a job out of,” he said.
Stringer, 18, of Madison, failed his sophomore year at Madison Central High School. He and his mother were at a crossroads when it came to his future.
“I just couldn’t see surviving another two years of high school with him being so disinterested,” said Sybyl Stringer, who works as an administrative librarian at Hinds Community College Raymond Campus. “I was aware that Hinds offered the high school equivalency, and Wyatt was eligible immediately once he took the test for it.”
The calculated gamble on the program has paid off handsomely. In 2019, he began the MIBEST program at Hinds and also started work as an apprentice for a residential construction company. 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.
He aced his High School Equivalency exam and is now enrolled in the Carpentry program at Hinds. Along the way, he earned scholarships through Workforce Investment Opportunity Act (WIOA) and the college’s HSE Diploma Scholarship program.
Being in MIBEST has helped him prioritize his time and avoid turning stress into procrastination.
“I’m definitely better at talking to people who help me get done things I need to get done,” he said. “For example, I’m more focused on things like my FAFSA application, high school transcripts, just asking questions in general. In high school, if I missed an assignment by two days, I just didn’t do it at all.”
He hasn’t ever lacked for general knowledge – he can talk freely about the ionization point of cobalt and enjoys chances to, as he puts it, “flex grammar” in general conversation. However, pursuing carpentry has helped him see what it’s like to start a project and see it through to completion.
“I was already working with carpentry, so it made sense,” he said. “You get a taste of everything with carpentry. You can get a little electrical, flooring and roofing. In the job I have, we fixed up an entire house in two weeks, from the baseboards to the doors. I felt super-accomplished. Then, in class, we build cabinets, chairs, a model house and even a deer stand for one of our teachers.
“This is a more hands-on environment for learning. Now, if there’s something I don’t understand, I just go ask an instructor. They’ll show you what tool you want to know about or a certain technique on how to do something better.”
“My instructors and navigator…they know how to keep me from not being disappointed in myself.”
All participants in MIBEST have access to support staff, or navigators, whose job it is to help students focus on their studies by advising them on a wide range of life issues – which often include everything from childcare to transportation to ways to find rental assistance for those in such a situation.
Stringers’ navigators and instructors have noticed how his energies have been channeled in a positive direction in the program.
“Wyatt is one of the most energetic, and eager to learn teenagers I have met in a long time,” said Chandra Frazier, a navigator in the program at the Raymond Campus. “His hardworking character makes me believe that he is committed to furthering his education, and becoming a successful, and productive citizen.”
For his part, he has enjoyed having apprentices of his own in his continuing education.
“My instructors and navigator really get on me to keep assignments done,” he said. “They know how to keep me from not being disappointed in myself.”