By Angela Rogalski
Second chances can be game changers in people’s lives, there is no doubt about that. Sometimes they can be the break someone is looking for, or sometimes they can be the lifeline that people need for pure survival. In either case, we have all utilized that second chance at some time or another. And if we haven’t, it’s a given we probably will.
2nd Chance MS is a Mississippi nonprofit and its mission is to raise awareness and funds and develop programs for adult education and workforce programs. It was founded in 2016 and the vision for this dynamic concept belongs to, Dick Scruggs, with his son, Zach, serving as executive director of the program. The father and son duo, and former Oxford attorneys, were sent to Federal prison in 2008 and from that venue their lives changed forever. They came to realize how vital and important second chances really could be, in more lives than just their own.
“My father and I were at different prisons,” Zach says, “and one of the things that we both did was teach adult education for the inmates who didn’t have their high school equivalency. That was the impetus for learning about the importance of education for people who needed it, even though neither of us had any prior teaching experience. When my father got out of prison, he heard a representative from a community college speaking on the radio about this kind of need. The support, the barrier removals for lower income students who were trying to get their high school equivalency. We had no idea at that time that community colleges were the place to go to do that, and how great they were with doing that. We then reached out to the community college board and that’s when we formed 2nd Chance.”
And that gesture of reaching out changed many lives, including the Scruggs’.
“2nd Chance is based in Oxford,” Zach says, “but we work with all fifteen of Mississippi’s community colleges to support lower-income adults who are working toward getting their high school equivalencies or an employable workforce certification. These people may have certain barriers they encounter while trying to finish these types of programs, such as transportation, tuition assistance for workforce programs, testing fees, just things of that nature. We are funded by private donations and some grants from other foundations, and it’s important to note that 100 percent of our donations goes to our programs.”
Scruggs adds they work with the Mississippi Community College Board and the community colleges throughout the state to provide this type of assistance to students who would be in need of and qualify for the program.
“This way people can get the skills they need to get back in the workforce,” he says. “The best and most logical place for a person to go if they are interested in furthering their education so that they can get a better job is their local community college. They may have dropped out of school and need their GED or they may be interested in a workforce program, whatever the case may be, one of the fifteen community colleges throughout the state will be able to help them. And of course, 2nd Chance works with those community colleges. We’re the 911, barrier removal service. We develop programs that provide assistance to an entire range of people, from transportation to tuition assistance, we are here to help them achieve their goals. The community colleges help recruit the people who need us. Attitude and aptitude to get where the student wants to be is very important.”
Scruggs shares that Mississippi ranks last in the number of adults without a high school diploma: 400,000 people have dropped out of high school (eighteen percent of the adult population) and the state ranks second to last (West Virginia is last) in the workforce participation rate: only fifty-three percent of Mississippi’s adults are currently working.
“But Mississippi ranks first in two categories: charitable giving and our Community College system,” he says. “In a way, our mission at 2nd Chance is to also use what we’re good at, our charitable giving and our great community college system, to help fix what we’re not good at, having a qualified and educated workforce. If anything is holding us back economically, it’s the fact that we don’t have a qualified, educated and skilled workforce in place.”
As far as the statistics go for 2nd Chance since its inception, Scruggs says that every one of the programs have exceeded their expectations, in terms of the number of people who have gone through and completed them.
“The overall 2nd Chance Miss. Program’s results since founding in 2016 have been great,” Scruggs adds. “There have been 684 people who have benefitted; 190 high school equivalencies obtained; 256 employable Workforce Certifications earned, and 167 Smart Start-Career Readiness credentials realized, so we are very honored and proud to have been a part of that.”
For additional information visit 2ndchancems.org.