Sherron Parker seemingly had lived several lifetimes in and around the work of caregiving when it called her name yet again, this time on the news.
“I had quit doing traveling home health care to take care of my sister-in-law, who took ill but lived another 18 years,” Parker said. “I gave up everything to take care of her. After she passed away, I looked at all these young people involved in killing, stealing, dealing drugs. If you save just one child’s life by talking to them, you might save a whole supermarket full of people from being shot.”
Parker, 66, of Pearl, hadn’t been inside a classroom since graduating from Lanier High School in 1973 and attending Hinds Community College briefly before some health issues prompted her to curtail her education. For years, she worked clerical jobs in healthcare, including at the state hospital, and at long-term care facilities.
“When I was working as a secretary, it was just data entry,” she said. “There were no updated computers like they have now. I didn’t know how to turn those on.”
Thanks to instructors and peers alike at Hinds since she returned to school in 2021, Parker has turned several corners in a swirling learning curve between then and now. She’s on track to December 2022 with an associate degree toward a career in clinical child development.
She’s made full use of resources available at Hinds, including the Student Success Center on the Rankin Campus where she attends class. The SSC is available at five Hinds campuses and comprises a set of programs and services to help all students, from their first semester to graduation, set and meet academic goals.
“They put my priorities in order,” she said. “They walked me through the process of checking my email, checking my assignments, take my quizzes and keep priority on everything so I don’t get behind.”
It didn’t take long to sense Parker’s needs and eagerness to learn how to turn those needs into strengths.
“Sherron stays for hours getting help in every area whether it’s just basic skills or help with an assignment,” said Hazel McLaurin, Director of the Student Success Center at Rankin. “A lot of students don’t go to school on Fridays when they don’t have class. However, you will find Mrs. Parker here. This truly shows that she is determined to be successful as a student.”
Relating to students young enough to be one of her 10 grandchildren took some time, she said, but now is part of her success story.
“I had to get used to their pace and the way they communicate,” she said. “But I’ve been amazed at having support from them from all directions. They’ve helped me succeed along with my teachers. I’d have students stop and help me. Some would give me their number. I even call some of them my children!”
Among them is Asija Clark, of Pearl, who met Parker in the center as the two bonded over mutual struggles with math and helped each other navigate the web-based applications students use to manage their grades and work assignments.
“Upon seeing Mrs. Parker, I was instantly encouraged by how driven she was to succeed,” Clark said. “She has become a study partner and a funny mentor for me.”
Parker plans to pursue advanced degrees to continue that mentoring role, in a more official role.
“You’re never too old to learn, but you have to know what you want to do,” she said. “Find out what you’re really interested in and find your reason. My reason to go back was I want to help some of these children now. They need major help because many of their parents just don’t talk to them. I don’t want to see young people keep throwing their lives away.”