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Second Chance MS Helps Mississippians Earn a GED, Skills Training

Dickie Scruggs – Second Chance MS from Second Chance Mississippi on Vimeo.

Richard F. “Dickie” Scruggs, previously called the most powerful trial attorney in the U.S., has stepped up efforts to help high school dropouts in his home state of Mississippi earn a GED and skills training.

Second Chance MS, an awareness and fundraising effort, was motivated by his personal experience tutoring fellow inmates while serving six years in prison.“Seeing firsthand every day how dramatically the lack of education affected their lives, I found new purpose in tutoring, first in history and then math for the GED,” said Scruggs. “Those guys who persisted and passed the GED developed a fresh outlook, a sense of pride and confidence that when released they could get an honest job—for many the first job they’ve ever had–giving them a second chance.” While schools are coming back in session and Labor Day approaches, Second Chance MS kicks up its campaign to urge the 500,000 Mississippi dropouts, which make up one-sixth of the state, to return to class to earn a GED and skills training to lead to employment. More community outreach, speaking engagements and fundraising efforts are planned–bolstered by a new advisory board and enhanced website– highlighting the severity of the issue and financial need for more instructors and support services. Mississippi has one of the lowest high school graduation rates in the country.

Meridith Wulff, Director of Lafayette County Literacy Council from Second Chance Mississippi on Vimeo.

Of its three million population, 22 percent of Mississippi adults do not have a high school diploma. Every year, an additional 14,000 students quit high school, meaning on average, every school day 77 Mississippi students drop out. Compounding the situation, Mississippi ranks 49th in the country in workplace participation. Two-thirds of the jobs in the state require “middle skills” but about one-third of workers do not have the education and/or skills to fill these roles. State community colleges mandated to provide adult education and skills training are collaborating with Second Chance MS.

Dickie Scruggs on teaching GED in prison. from Second Chance Mississippi on Vimeo.

“There are dedicated educators, armed with new pilot programs to turn this around. But there is meager funding,” said Scruggs. “The community colleges offer programs that combine GED preparation and certifications in numerous middle skills categories, such as welding, nursing assistant, IT support, culinary, commercial truck driving and basic manufacturing to “fast track” getting a job while working towards a GED. They need more funding to hire instructors and provide support services to students.” “Mississippi cannot move forward unless we find a way to lift up, educate and train high school dropouts for living wage jobs. Right now, many of these families are consumers of tax dollars. We want to help them contribute to Mississippi. Second Chance MS is investing time, effort and resources in Adult Education programs at community colleges, and we are very grateful for that support,” said Dr. Clyde Muse, President of Hinds Community College, the state’s largest community college.

Retraining the Gulf Coast: Mississippi Delta Community College from baselinemedia on Vimeo.

There is added urgency to help. Since the national GED was revised in 2014, 78 percent fewer Mississippians took the test and 90% fewer passed the test in that first year. The curriculum changed. The test is now computerized. There are significantly fewer test locations. The cost increased by 60% to $120 and students must pay in advance with a credit card, which most in this group do not have.

The Rev. Chris Diggs for Second Chance Mississippi from Second Chance Mississippi on Vimeo.

To further the goals of Second Chance MS an advisory board now includes: Tom Burham, former MS Superintendent of Education, former dean, University of Mississippi (UM) School of Education Rev. Chris Diggs, Burns United Methodist Church, runs church GED program Sen. Sally Doty, State Senator, Brookhaven Morgan Freeman, Award-winning actor, director Tom Gresham, President Double Quick, Inc. Colleen Hartfield, V.P., Community Relations & Governmental Affairs, Hinds Community College Robert Khayat, Former Chancellor, associate dean and professor of the School of Law, UM Archie Manning, Former professional football player Jesse Mitchell, Lawyer Mike Moore, Former Mississippi Attorney General Andrew Mullins, Professor, special assistant to UM Chancellors and state education chiefs “Helping our fellow Mississippians get their GED and skill certification so that they can earn a family sustaining wage will not only better their lives, but their community and our state as a whole. It’s a winwin for us all,” said Archie Manning.

Jessie Mitchell for Second Chance Mississippi from Second Chance Mississippi on Vimeo.

More information for students and tax deductible donations can be made at www.SecondChanceMS.com. Donations go directly to the Mississippi Community College Foundation. The Second Chance MS organization does not collect funds.

About Second Chance MS:
Second Chance MS is an awareness and fundraising program to encourage and support 500,000 Mississippi high school dropouts to get a GED and skills training. Founded by former attorney Dickie Scruggs, who previously has been called the most powerful trial attorney in the U.S., the program was motivated by Scruggs’ personal experience tutoring fellow inmates while serving six years in prison. 22% of Mississippi adults do not have a high school diploma. Every year 14,000 more drop out. Mississippi has a significant gap in skilled workers. For more information for students and make donations, please visit www.SecondChanceMS.com.

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