Overcoming life’s hardships through education | News | The Press and Standard

by | February 17, 2017 5:00 am

Last Updated: February 16, 2017 at 9:58 am

Jaime Overland’s story could be the life of many of Colleton County’s teens.
In 1999, she got pregnant, had a baby and dropped out of high school.
Many life stories end there with a family at a dead end. But four years ago, Jaime decided she’d had enough. She was tired of looking for jobs with no success. She wanted more from her life. She was ready for a change for the better. And she got it through Colleton County Adult Education.
In March 2013, she woke up one morning and decided “Today’s the day.” So she went down and signed up to get her GED.
“I had always wanted to go back to school, but my own fear was holding me back,” she said. She always struggled in traditional school and was afraid of failing. But she was also tired of supporting her now three-child family on minimum wage jobs and applying for better ones and being told she had to have a high school diploma. She was determined to turn her life around.
To her surprise, she found Adult Ed wasn’t that hard. “It’s not like in school where they teach you something and then move on, whether you know it or not. They actually help you there, and I guess that’s why it’s a little different than regular school. Everybody’s doing their own individual thing at their own pace. And the teachers can take the time to go around and help.”
It also helped that she didn’t have to pay tuition, since with three kids, money was obviously a problem. Before starting the program, she took a series of tests and qualified for assistance to pay for the courses, as well as the final GED test. Another plus was that the program was only three hours a day, Monday-Thursday, which left her time to work and study.
In June 2013, just four months after she started, Jaime went home with her GED in hand. “I was really motivated to finish,” she said, but some of her classmates were there when she entered the program and were still working at graduating when she left. That ability to move at a person’s own pace is one of the reasons she feels the program is successful.
Immediately after getting her GED in hand, she enrolled at USC Salkehatchie in Walterboro. In April, she will receive her associate degree in art, then begin studies this fall for a bachelor’s degree in a new major at Salk — organizational leadership.
She’s done well at Salk, she said, because it also offers a non-traditional program. “I know some people think that, being a small campus, maybe it’s not up to par. But the thing about a small campus to me is that it’s sort of like a family there. You’re not just a number. They actually care and everyone knows each other and they want to help you — instead of you just being just a small fish.”
If all goes as planned, she’ll graduate in spring 2019, then go to work to pay off her student loans.
Now, she operates her bakery “Confection Connections” through a Facebook page, and cleans houses at the beach during the summer. After graduation, she hopes to get an “office job.” But the bakery remains her dream.
“In a perfect world, I’d have a farm with a bakery on it. Use my own eggs and raise bees for honey,” Jaime said. Maybe a store in town. But that’s for the future.
Right now, there’s still finishing up school and raising kids. Ironically, Jaime’s oldest son, 17, started at Adult Ed last Monday. Like his mom, he didn’t do well in a regular school environment and became frustrated and ready to quit. But mom had been there, done that. She told him, “Mom can do it, you can too. It’d hard, but it’s really important.
“I’m very glad I did it. It’s probably the best thing I’ve ever done.”

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