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.

Crystal Thomas, 20, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2005 while a senior at Lucy C. Laney High School and dropped out. She says she is struggling to find a job without a diploma.  Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Andrew Davis Tucker/Staff
Crystal Thomas, 20, was diagnosed with Hodgkin's lymphoma in 2005 while a senior at Lucy C. Laney High School and dropped out. She says she is struggling to find a job without a diploma.

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 rsum 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

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

Tuesday, May 29

- Illness ends woman's pursuit for diploma

Comments (12) Add comment
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11294
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 05/29/07 - 06:59 am
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GED a copout, that seems to

GED a copout, that seems to be the only option left, quit making excuses and get busy..

masterdiver
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masterdiver 05/29/07 - 07:01 am
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How many employers have to

How many employers have to turn her down for work until she realizes that she needs, at minimum, the GED. According to Ms Thomas, she is not going to try for her GED because she feels it is a cop out.

This, in itself is an insult to all that have earned their GED's and went on to make something of themselves.

Wake up, get the GED and quit crying the blues. You brought it all on yourself. Evidently the only praying you are doing is for pity, a handout, or what ever else she can get without having to work for it. Momma and daddy aren't going to be around forever.............................. What are you gonna do then?

augustagolfer
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augustagolfer 05/29/07 - 07:19 am
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Ms. Thomas may think that the

Ms. Thomas may think that the GED is a piece of cake, but that would be the result of stereotyping the test from years back. To pass it today is a true demonstration of academic competence. She would have nothing to be ashamed of if she earned her GED, which she would likely not do if she didn't properly prepare. Enough with the excuses already. You seem to have the time to make it happen. It’s your move Ms. Thomas.

witness
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witness 05/29/07 - 07:47 am
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Life dealt you a bad hand.

Life dealt you a bad hand. Now, just thank God for your life and health and move on. You may not have finished high school but you now have the opporunity to get your GED. Get off your butt and stop having a pitty party with yourself and move forward. You are not the first person this has happen to and you will not be the last. Life is too short to be sitting around in self pity. Get your GED and move forward, you are young and you can improve you situation by just taking the first step.

WAG
287
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WAG 05/29/07 - 07:47 am
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Quit whining...Why would you

Quit whining...Why would you not want to be in class wtih people younger than you? Sounds like excuses to me. I got my GED when I was 55 and am very proud of it. And everyone in the class was younger than me. Big deal!! I was not there for them.... You make a GED sound bad....Get over it and go get the GED. Sounds to me like something else is keeping you from getting a job....Like maybe your attitude...You know poor pitiful me... Or the fact that you do not really want to work.
I do not understand why the Chronicle printed this article..
What is the purpose

ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts
11294
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ColdBeerBoiledPeanuts 05/29/07 - 09:02 am
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I believe this article

I believe this article demonstrates a mindset that has become cemented in lower income areas. If people would just take responsibility for their actions and fate they would realize an improvement. I know of a women who didn't finish high school so she took the copout to get her GED and now makes over $50,000 a year. Quit reaching for a handout and reach for your bootstraps. With all the time she has wasted she could have had a diploma or a GED by now..

marien
29
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marien 05/29/07 - 09:50 am
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Mrs. Thomas you should only

Mrs. Thomas you should only be ashamed if you do not get anything, you need to get your GED and move on it is not a cop out but a second chance at making your dreams and hopes come true. The instructors in the program are there and are ready to work with you. You will only lose if you don't finish your education.

WAG
287
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WAG 05/29/07 - 10:43 am
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Still do not get this

Still do not get this article. Are we supposed to feel sorry for her or what...Get off your butt and get Ged or go back to high school...

Ron Martin CPP
2
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Ron Martin CPP 05/29/07 - 07:39 pm
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Crystal sickness is no reason

Crystal sickness is no reason to give up on your dreams. If you had a Scholarship you have the right stuff to succeed! Keep going in spite of your illness. Go to Hebrews 11:1 "what is Faith? It is the confident assurance that something we want is going to happen. It is the certainty that what we hoped for is waiting for us, even though we cannot see it up ahead." Have faith is your abilities and move ahead. You can do it!

About Time
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About Time 05/29/07 - 11:11 pm
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In most instances, a GED is

In most instances, a GED is considered the same thing as a high school degree. There is no reason not to get it. I would have been the valedictorian of my high school class had I graduated; but, yeah, life stinks sometimes. But, if you want to get ahead, you don't quit a job completely because hours are slow. You don't resign yourself to fast food is it doesn't fit in your long term plans, and you certainly don't put off the one thing to help move you in the right direction for no good reason.

She can do this very easily if and when she chooses to do so. I did.

Forgiven1
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Forgiven1 05/30/07 - 01:46 pm
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Isaiah 53:5 says that God

Isaiah 53:5 says that God sent Jesus to Calvary to take the stripes on His back so we could be delivered and forever set free. When Jesus went to the cross and said, It is finished, He settled the issue once and for all (John 19:30). As believers, we are the healed of the Lord! According to the Word of God, we are the healed of the Lord (see Exodus 15:26). We shouldn’t let satan strip us of what Jesus has already paid for—our health, our families, our finances!

t of i
25
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t of i 05/30/07 - 06:27 pm
0
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What?

What?

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