Illness ends woman's pursuit for diploma

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Tears streamed down Crystal Thomas' face as she reflected on the hopes and dreams she put on hold because of dropping out of school.


College bound with a scholarship in hand, the former Lucy C. Laney High School student dropped out as a senior during the 2005-06 school year. Ms. Thomas became ill, suffering pain in her legs so severe that it became difficult for her to climb stairs or even stand at times.


"My feeling in my legs would just totally leave," she recalled.


A battery of medical tests, including a spinal tap, revealed Ms. Thomas had Hodgkin's lymphoma, a form of cancer. She was given the diagnosis the day after Thanksgiving in 2005.


As she received treatments, she continued doing her schoolwork from home with a teacher making periodic visits, but she fell behind to the point where she thought it best to drop out rather than repeat a year of school.


It would have taken another year of school to catch up, and she didn't want to be in class with students younger than her.


Although her cancer is now in remission, Ms. Thomas, 20, continues to struggle, unable to find a decent job because she lacks a high school diploma.


She worked in a sporting goods store for a few months but left when she couldn't get enough hours to work. She then worked at Burger King for a short time.


Ms. Thomas, who would have been in the class of 2006, recalled what she missed by dropping out of school, such as the prom and senior trip.


Not finishing school, she said bluntly, was a bad choice.


Each dropout creates a ripple effect felt throughout a community for years to come, said Stephen Dolinger, the president of the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education. The Atlanta-based partnership brings together education and business leaders.


In addition to making less money and often being taxpayer burdens, dropouts tend to be less active in the community - voting and volunteering less than those who complete high school, Dr. Dolinger said.


Many people don't see dropping out as a community issue, however, instead treating education like a competition - as long as my child is doing better than yours, then all is OK, said Lynn Huntley, the president of the Southern Education Foundation. The Atlanta-based group has advocated for equality in Southern education for nearly 140 years. The result is a contest that lauds those who achieve and dismisses those who fail as if they were inherently inferior, she said.


"We have, in particular I think among those of us who are members of the middle class, great pride and appropriately so in the education achievements of our children and a preoccupation with how well those children are doing," Ms. Huntley said. "And we look and measure how well our children are doing by how poorly other children are doing."


Some economic measures show how dropouts affect a community, Dr. Dolinger said. For instance, if east central Georgia raised its graduation rates to the national average, it would gain $3.6 million annually in increased productivity. That economic component is directly tied to the fact that dropouts have an 8.5 percent unemployment rate, as compared with 5.5 percent for high school graduates, he said.


Ms. Thomas has for the moment put her education on the back burner while she continues to look for a job. Getting turned down by employer after employer, she's heard all of the excuses - they're not hiring right now, they're not accepting applications and they'll keep her resume on file. But the results are the same - no job.
"I don't see how they just sit around and do nothing all day," she said of high school dropouts. "It makes me feel like a lazy person, when I'm not a lazy person."


Ms. Thomas, who lives at home with her parents, considered pursuing her GED, but decided against it.


"Honestly, I feel the GED is a cop out for me," she said.


"Right now I'm just trying to stay positive and praying. I'm taking it day by day," Ms. Thomas said. "If you don't have no education, you don't have nothing."

DROPOUTS IN AUGUSTA

High School dropout Crystal Thomas had to withdraw from school in the middle of having to battle cancer and just never got caught back up.  Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
High School dropout Crystal Thomas had to withdraw from school in the middle of having to battle cancer and just never got caught back up.

A two-part series on the problems faced by dropouts in the CSRA, and efforts to solve the problem.

Sunday, May 27

- Dropout discusses life without school

- Illness ends woman's pursuit for diploma

- Many disappear from class rolls

- Dropping out often leads to prison time

Monday, May 28

- 59-year-old is back in the classroom

- Exit exams can spoil graduation

Comments (28) Add comment
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gemini62882
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gemini62882 05/27/07 - 02:45 am
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I'm sorry that you had to

I'm sorry that you had to quit school due to a devastating disease. I know that it must be difficult for you to admit that you don't have a high school diploma. But in the same token take pride in the fact that maybe you helped someone else stay in school with your comments on how hard it is to find a job. I have a question, why can't Laney allow Ms. Thomas to come back to school and pick-up where she left off at? I don't know how this high school is, but at the high school that I attended we got credits for the classes that we passed. At my high school if you had to leave school due to an illness, when ever you came back to school you picked up where you left off at. Can Ms. Thomas due this?

WAG
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WAG 05/27/07 - 09:04 am
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Why would a GED be a cop out

Why would a GED be a cop out for you? I got mine when I was 55.
It is one of the first questions asked on an application for a job. Do you have a hich school deploma or GED. Go get it girl ..It is no cop out...You can do it!!!!!!!!!!!!!

kudzo-n-roses
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kudzo-n-roses 05/27/07 - 09:12 am
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Ms. Thomas go back to

Ms. Thomas go back to school....it doesn't matter how long it takes or if the students are younger than you....you can do it. God Bless

kaytee
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kaytee 05/27/07 - 09:20 am
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the GED is not a cop

the GED is not a cop out......it is more limiting then a traditional HS diploma, but then everything would be. if you are young enough, go back to school, if not get the GED, if you can't do that, pick a direction to go and see if another option is suitable, correspondence maybe....but get headed in some direction of the right nature.

wise
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wise 05/27/07 - 09:50 am
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I understand the feeling of

I understand the feeling of not wanting a GED. I had some problems with my kidneys my senior year and had to drop out the second semester. Every one told me to go get a GED as well I refused. I felt like I came to far to just go get a GED. I went to a private school to finish my credits off and graduated a year late but I still received a high school diploma. Ms. Thomas should go back to school.

sdismuke
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sdismuke 05/27/07 - 11:08 am
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Crystal, Don't stop pursuing

Crystal,

Don't stop pursuing your dream. There is nothing you can't do if you trust in God. God will give you the strength to fight cancer and to pursue your dreams. It is never to late to complete your education. Last week a 90 year old woman walked across the stage with her granddaughter and received her college degree. Don't let anyone or anything stop you from receiving your high school diploma and your college degree. It is a cop-out not to pursue your diploma. God has allowed your cancer to be placed in remission so you can do the things you need to do. I will be praying for you that you make the right decision. It is a hard choice to continue when your in pain but shame the devil and give God the glory. I love you my sister.

tired of the madness
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tired of the madness 05/27/07 - 11:28 am
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Ms. Thomas, it is unfortunate

Ms. Thomas, it is unfortunate that you have had to deal with an illness that caused you to fall behind in your education. But, oftentimes, life presents us with many challenges, and there are many stumbling blocks throughout. I lost both of my parents as a young child and spent many years in many foster homes, many where no one cared about me or education, so I too dropped out as a junior. But, years later when I stopped the emotional tripping and realized that I was now ultimately responsible for myself, I prayed and asked God to help me and he did. I took and passed the GED, took life skills classes at DeKalb High School and was awarded a high school diploma too, has since earned an associates' in business, a bachelor's degree in paralegal studies and am working on my master's, most of which I accomplished while a single-parent with three children. And I now own my own business. Don't let pride keep you down, God is on your side, it's clear to see he has commanded the cancer to remission. Don't allow not having a diploma to keep you down and spend the rest of your life focusing on why. Make a decision to do it and soon. The job situation won't ever get better until you do

qtinbell
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qtinbell 05/27/07 - 12:45 pm
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I'm sitting here in Iraq

I'm sitting here in Iraq reading this young lady's story and it touched me. As I read these comments, I was hoping that someone would step up and help her. Instead, you offer advice about what she COULD do. What she needs is action. The principal at LCL should act. The real philanthropists in Richmond Count should act. All the African Americans who are tired of the negative press that are printed about them and who don't want this "point of light" fall through the cracks should act. How can you not be inspired by such determination? THE MAYOR SHOULD ACT. THE CHURCHES SHOULD ACT. PAINE COLLEGE SHOULD ACT. THE NAACP SHOULD ACT; clearly this young lady is seeking advancement!

Well, I'm going to act. Since Richmond County, and especially the African American community, is too busy to act, I'll take charge from a war zone and do what I can to help her. She has suffered and tried to make it on her own for too long.

a2
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a2 05/27/07 - 01:11 pm
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Do what?

Do what?

bereal
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bereal 05/27/07 - 04:57 pm
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Well I have a high school

Well I have a high school diploma and graduated from criminal justice at augusta tech and I do not have a job, not even for housekeeping. (I’m 30 years old). Don't feel bad you will be better than me.

bigwillie
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bigwillie 05/27/07 - 05:08 pm
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Crystal, I was diagnosed with

Crystal, I was diagnosed with Lymphoma in March of 2006. I was a 44 yr old student working on my Associates Degree when I found out. I didn't quit, even when the Chemo was tough, I got my Degree. I will start my Bachelors Program in June. I also coach at the YMCA, while supporting my wife and 3 kids as the only bread winner.

I don't normally right comments, but I hope that my strength will be your strength to keep going after your goals.

missyt66
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missyt66 05/27/07 - 06:45 pm
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I can only hope that, Crystal

I can only hope that, Crystal has a very supportive counselor. Certainly, we are only given a glimpse into what her world must have been like. I couldn't help but notice that Crystal is very doubtful, and rightfully so. Some of us experience less and retreat. Assisting her in removing doubts and instilling hope is a great place to start. If I could speak to Crystal, I would tell her that it takes more courage to earn a GED than a high school diploma. Making the choice to get a GED shows everyone that you assessed your situation, and found a solution. I don't reside in Georgia, but I do have a Georgia telephone number. I would love to be phone pals with Crystal. I will contact the Augusta Chronicle to see if they could help facilitate this. Crystal is just the type of person that communities should reach out to immediately.

twoamepiphany
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twoamepiphany 05/27/07 - 09:17 pm
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I had to get a GED when I

I had to get a GED when I moved to the state of Georgia alone at the age of 17. I was turned down by 17 different schools in the CSRA. I was an A student and was heavily involved in arts and music. There was simply too large a stack of paperwork for the guidance counselors to complete at the high schools, hence my senior year was never completed. Four months into the school year I received a phone call from a social worker telling me I could have finished my senior year had those people wanted to do their job. Get that GED, honey... I'm graduating from Georgia Military College in a week and I've been accepted to Ohio State. Keep your head up.

Golfer
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Golfer 05/27/07 - 11:11 pm
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Gtinbell, why should all

Gtinbell, why should all these people have to help. If someone wants something bad enough they can do it alone. I work 50 - 60 hours a week and I am pursuing my masters degree in my spare time. If you want something bad enough you make time for it. I don't get why she sees a GED as a cop out? A GED is the EQUIVALENT to a diploma. That excuse sounds like a lazy excuse to me.

missyt66
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missyt66 05/28/07 - 01:07 am
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I think Crystal is going to

I think Crystal is going to prevail. Right now, her confidence is not where it could be. But that can be changed with setting long and short term goals, and celebrating the tiny triumphs along the way. With each accomplishment, Crystal's hope will be restored. And for that reason, she should be provided the needed resources that will assist her in being an asset to her community. She is a potential leader not a menace. I will refrain from name-calling, and back and forth debates. ProudYankee, I hear what you're saying, and my degree helps me to better understand your comments. I think you should be commended for your long hours and the fact that you're pursuing a graduate degree in your spare time. No doubt, you are an inspiration to your family and community. I don't have much more to say than that.

luckie
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luckie 05/28/07 - 10:21 am
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Cryatal had a teacher coming

Cryatal had a teacher coming to her home. Once again, the problem today is that young kids that do not have persistent parental support are the ones that lag. Her homeschool teacher and parents should have encouraged her with her studies a little bit at a time. Not wanting to attend school because you are older is rediculous because if you look at the ages of the students at Laney, many have been retained once or twice. Don't be a quitter crystal and pursue your education while the basics are still in your brain. A GED is just one step below a diploma. A drop out is a dead end street.

Curlie56
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Curlie56 05/28/07 - 10:47 am
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Laney HS can allow this young

Laney HS can allow this young lady to pursue her diploma online through a computer donated by a church or the school system. I know this will open up a gigantic pot of worms for everyone with a headache, to think they should be given the same opportunity. No, you shouldn't! If your illness is not debilitating, such as Crystal's then you will NOT be awarded the chance to do this, so skip the lawsuit talk before you start! School is online now, from the cradle to the grave, her/a church should step forward and steps should be taken to help students who fall by no choice of their own into this pit. She needs help...I think the school board should step in and do something constructive for a special student. This way she does not have to be or feel inferior to her classmates, or be subjected to harsh statements from other nasty students. She does qualify for student grants etc. Crystal look into this matter from your community leaders. The school board has to make the first step! Contact the commissioner and school board member who represents your district. You can take charge of this situation..if it fails,at least you gave it your best fight.Try to help yourself through the resources!

hephgirl
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hephgirl 05/29/07 - 02:05 pm
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I feel bad that this disease

I feel bad that this disease has hit her, but I am just reading an article of excuses. There a plenty of students in high school that are 18, 19, 20; I feel your age should not stop you from wanting an education. Also a GED is not a cop out, it is an option offered when getting your high school diploma is not available. Just a piece of advise pride is something that can hurt you, especially when it comes to making a better life for yourself, sometimes you got to swallow it and do what you got to do.

toppergem
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toppergem 05/29/07 - 02:57 pm
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This young lady has been feed

This young lady has been feed a bunch of bull by someone if she thinks passing the GED test is a cop out. This test was given to 15,000 randomly selected United States and Canadian graduating high school seniors in 2002. Of those individuals only 60 percent were able to achieve the minimum passing score of 2250 on the test. So you are not talking about some simple test. You have to know a great deal of information in order to pass this test. This test is accepted by many colleges and universities in the country. So if this young lady wants to really get on with her education...get with it. Stop making excuses...time is just passing her by.

t of i
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t of i 05/29/07 - 07:36 pm
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All you read about from the

All you read about from the drop-outs: excuses. I personally don't accept this young lady's excuse. Plenty of students have health problems and lose a year. There is more to this story than the Chronicle is reporting.

goldie53
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goldie53 05/29/07 - 10:47 pm
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I know this young lady. So

I know this young lady. So many of you made irresponsible remarks concerning her. She was very sick,young and had a tough time with chemo. She is a smart and strong young lady. Imagine being in your senior year looking ahead and boom cancer strikes. Crystal press on, pull yourself up and go get your GED and move forward. After that apply for college scholarships, try to get into the medical field. You can make a difference. We are praying for you.
To the ones who made the negative remarks - you never know what's ahead around the fork in the road. Be careful how you speak. Your life can change in one day.

nofrills
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nofrills 05/30/07 - 06:01 am
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This young lady should be

This young lady should be coaxed but to school. She is brave and tough and will do well if life if we as a whole give her a nudge and point her in the right direction. we are so quick to judge!

masterdiver
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masterdiver 05/30/07 - 09:53 am
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The only irresponsibility in

The only irresponsibility in this is the young lady herself. As t of i stated in their post, plenty of students have had health problems, missed a lot of school, but had the determination to get their education. To these students, regardless of background, religion, or race, they are to be applauded. This is not to say this young lady was sick, yes I know that chemo is devastating, but in the article it states that the cancer is in remission. I had my own sister in the hospital for over a year, and in tractions, but she did not let that stop her from getting her education. She can either wallow in self pity or get a life and realize that the only one responsible for her education is herself. If it is pride, swallow it, get the GED and move on. You think it's hard now to find a job at 20 years old and no HS education, wait until she turns 25, or 30 or 40. Time waits for no person. So if I am negative, so be it. Sometimes in order to get someone off of their butt and moving they need someone to be negative and to smack them in the face with the truth. I personally hope that this young lady does get her GED and move on to bigger and better things.

Edward1968
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Edward1968 05/30/07 - 11:41 am
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Crystal, There was a

Crystal,
There was a young girl at Aquinas in the mid 1960's who had cancer. She missed a lot of school due to treatments; some of which were done at a hospital many miles away. She stuck to her studies when she could. Unfortunately she passed away before graduation in 1966.

Don't stop now. You have many good years ahead and the opportunities abound. YOU CAN DO IT!!!

missyt66
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missyt66 05/31/07 - 04:58 am
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I agree with you goldie53. I

I agree with you goldie53. I think it's terrible the way people are portraying her, and calling her lazy. I sure hope she's not reading this. Right now, she needs support, and understanding. Everyone handles life issues differently; something that would make me push harder, may in fact make someone else crumble. In our society we do so much damage to one another just by failing to practice a little bit of empathy. If you see that someone is hurting and down, why step on them, why push them down even further? I don't like what society has turned into.

masterdiver
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masterdiver 05/31/07 - 07:39 am
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missyt66 and goldie53, I am

missyt66 and goldie53, I am hoping that she is reading and taking in everything. I agree that she needs support, and also understanding. But as an older brother to someone that has a sister that went through tractions for over a year, in the hospital, I can and do have understanding and also support. But how long does one sit back and do nothing? Thank God that her parents are there to help her along. I have done the same with my children, but at a tremendous cost. At some point in time, the parents are not going to be there, She needs to get a grip on reality and start now with the GED. Understanding and support only goes so far. Crystal, wake up and smell the coffee. Support and understanding will not last forever, then what? If you believe it will then you have a rude awakening coming. As for the GED, just get it, and put all this behind you. I personally do not know you, and I give anybody the benefit of the doubt. But in this case you say that you are not a lazy person, but at the same time, your current actions are coming across to everyone as you are giving up.

t of i
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t of i 05/31/07 - 10:31 am
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If there are some of us who

If there are some of us who comes across as being a little hard on her, it may be because of the way the article ended and what she said: Ms. Thomas, who lives at home with her parents, considered pursuing her GED, but decided against it.

"Honestly, I feel the GED is a cop out for me," she said.

"Right now I'm just trying to stay positive and praying. I'm taking it day by day," Ms. Thomas said. "If you don't have no education, you don't have nothing."
If she is referring to her illness, that's one thing. If she is referring to her getting a job without either going back to school or getting her GED, well that's a little harder for us to condone.

tamlynkirk
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tamlynkirk 05/31/07 - 03:40 pm
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girl you had better go back

girl you had better go back to school. there are great opportunities now-a-days and there's just no excuse. i understand somethings having to be "placed on hold." you see now that this is a problem for you and you know now what you need to do. trust me you don't want to wait too late. with great determination and staying motivated you can do it!!! KEEP PRESSING FORWARD ^j^

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