PEARL – Still waters have always run deep for Jessica Spann, in school and in life.
Now quiet in nature and quick with a smile, Spann, 20, has come a long way in a short time when it comes to completing her education.
“I kept telling myself I had to do it and that working fast food and at gas stations wasn’t going to be a career,” Spann said. “I just wasn’t a fan of high school. I was an aggressive person for a while as I tried to figure myself out. And now I’m just so happy.”
In January, Spann, of Brandon, became the first student in the MIBEST program at Hinds Community College to earn her High School Equivalency certificate through the Competency-Based option. The track involves the recognition of industry credentials as well as academic standards. She earned a silver rating on the National Career Readiness Certificate exam, a nationally-recognized career-readiness skills test, and in May will walk across the stage a Hinds graduate with a career certificate in Medical Data Technology.
Spann credits the unique adult education and career-readiness program with honing her skills in more than just the basics.
“I speak up more in class when I’m not understanding something, instead of getting frustrated when I don’t understand something,” she said. “My attention span is better. I’m in accounting now. It’s hard, but I want to keep on learning about it.”
MIBEST is Mississippi’s version of the nationally recognized Integrating Basic Education and Skills Training program, or I-BEST, and originated in Washington state. The program kicked off a few years ago with federal funds and allows adult students to train for a job skill while earning their GED high school equivalency certificate at the same time. In Mississippi, MIBEST was implemented at each state community college in 2016 thanks to a $6 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation.
Students are prepared to be job-ready in six months to a year, train in high-demand areas and earn national certifications.
Spann landed in the program thanks to Angie Miles, who works in the program as a navigator, tasked with helping its students find solutions for “life issues” such as transportation, child care and financial aid so they can focus squarely on academics.
Miles knew Spann from when she was homeroom mother for her own daughter’s fifth grade class – a group that also included Jessica. Over the years, she became familiar of a tough family life when it came to completing her education.
Seeing Spann enter her MIBEST orientation classroom was a surprise, Miles said, one that has produced a level of achievement neither thought possible.
“I was so excited to see the beautiful young woman she had grown up to be,” Miles said. “I was even more thrilled that she was wanting to pursue her high school equivalency and take college classes at Hinds Community College.”
Kristi Johnson, an instructor in the program, has watched Spann blossom since last summer into a successful, career-ready student.
“At that time, I met a very distant young lady that put up a lot of walls around her,” Johnson said. “She was quick to get angry, from frustration, because she didn’t believe that she was smart or capable. However, over time, she began to trust those who want the best for her and to believe in herself. Today, she is an excellent student and a confident young woman.”
For more information on the MIBEST program at Hinds Community College Rankin Campus, contact Miles at 601-936-1834 or Johnson at 601-936-1850.