Hawkinsville, Ga. – The circle of most students’ academic lives is not even much of a circle at all, but the actual shapes do reveal wonderful insights. It was for that very reason why two adult education students at Central Georgia Technical College’s (CGTC) Hawkinsville Workforce Development Center found themselves taking in a matinee of The Lion King at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre at the end of January.
Sharon McGhee and Zachary Williams participated in this cultural experience facilitated by the Educational Opportunity Center (EOC) at Mercer University. Mercer rewarded them after they each submitted to an essay competition put on by a program within the center called, the Stepping Stones Transition Program. Two other students, Haylee Wood and Ariel Bowman, won in the essay competition but did not attend the musical.
Speaking about the trip, Williams said it was a great experience and show, and that being selected provided some motivation for his educational pursuits.
“I’m seeing some results, you know,” he said. “It motivates me to want to do better for myself.” Williams is young and dropped out of high school, then enrolled in August 2017 to pursue his GED®. Now with a victory under his belt, and the encouragement of his family, he is starting to see the benefits of an education.
Similar to the Adult Education Division at CGTC, The Stepping Stones Transition Program and the EOC at Mercer supports students from attaining their GED® to college. Late last year, the program sent notice to CGTC’s Adult Education division seeking essays on leadership skills and how students plan to use those skills in the community.
“To tell you the truth, I was nervous,” said McGhee, who as an adult, has set her goal on attaining a GED®, and staying positive about her future. “Then something just came to my mind and I started working, and I thought I couldn’t do it but I did.”
For both McGhee and Williams the focus of their essays was very personal, recalling their own experiences of being in the program and what instructors like, Merissa Sands, have taught them about leadership.
“She asks questions to put (lessons) in more perspective, and how being a leader in the community is related to education,” McGhee said.
Engagement and motivation are key components to Sands’ teaching style. In fact, they may just be the most important.
“Life happens, you know,” she said. “Everything is always more important than school at the time. At least that is how they feel until they realize they have to have it (education).”
Sands read the essays initially and saw something in them. So, when she found out her students won, she was elated. For the students, it was a moment where, even from small Hawkinsville, “they were able to be a part of something bigger,” as she put it.
When they gathered together a week after the show to talk about the experience, McGhee and Williams discussed whether or not their educational journeys share similarities to the themes, lyrics, or characters of The Lion King.
Williams compared his to Simba; a young cub who naively, “just can’t wait” for upcoming responsibilities, who by the end, realized he needed to be taught some lessons.
Then McGhee gave her thoughts.
“I can’t think of the name,” she said, pausing with some visible self-frustration. Sands interjected.
“Hakuna Matata,” Sands said, matter-of-factly.
“Yeah, it means no worries. Keep ahead.”
(Back, Left to Right) CGTC Hawkinsville WDC director, Marcus Early, adult education instructor, Merissa Sands, adult education instructor, Ruby Brown, join adult education students Sharon McGhee and Zachary Williams who recently won a Mercer essay competition whose prize was a trip to see The Lion King at the Fox Theatre.