Zach Scruggs, director of 2nd Chance MS, speaks at Pearl River Community College.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College will receive $15,000 on Wednesday to provide support for its adult education students.

“A lot of the adults that get in these programs are going to be lower-income, under-employed, unemployed, under-educated and one little thing can stop the process or throw a huge roadblock,” said Zach Scruggs, the executive director of 2nd Chance MS.

The organization, along with Bascot McCarty Foundation and Chevron are donating $5,000 each to establish the fund, though Scruggs noted they hope to get additional partners to contribute.

Many times, the students enrolled in these programs have dropped out of high school. Upon returning for their high school equivalency or employment skills training, they’re faced with distinct challenges.

“They lack a lot of the basic necessities that we all take for granted – food, sometimes shelter. Transportation is probably the biggest [challenge]. We’re a rural state and transportation is a big issue. Clothing for interviews, money to pay for some of the workforce programs or some of the books or supplies, child care,” Scruggs said.

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Lacking any one of those things could hinder an adult from completing a program. While recruiting adults to these programs is difficult, retaining them is even more challenging because of these barriers, Scruggs said.

“We recognize that many of these students are coming back to school despite adverse and complicated situations to prepare for better career opportunities,” said Mary Graham, president of Gulf Coast Community College, in a news release. “We are grateful to our partners who help provide the resources needed to help disadvantaged students achieve success.”

The fund will be allocated toward students who run into these hurdles. In the past, it hasn’t been uncommon for teachers to pay for these expenses out of pocket for students who were struggling.

Now, those educators will be able to defer to this fund.

“They know the deserving, worthy students who are working hard and what their disadvantages are,” Scruggs said. “The instructors are front line. They’re doing missionary-type work.”

Dick Scruggs, the founder of 2nd Chance Mississippi, is a financial donor to Mississippi Today. 

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Kelsey Davis Betz is from Mobile, Ala., and currently lives in Cleveland, where she worked as a Mississippi Delta-based reporter covering education and intersecting issues. Kelsey has a dual degree in journalism and Spanish from Auburn University and worked as an editorial intern at Texas Monthly and a courts reporter at the Montgomery Advertiser. She is a 2018 Educating Children in Mississippi Fellow at the Hechinger Report and is a co-founder of the Mississippi Delta Public Newsroom.