A GED Success Story

Thursday, July 2, 2015
Bellys Cox (left) and Carolyn Baker catch up at the training center on Wednesday, June 24.(TD photo/Jessica Rainwater)

Bellys Cox, formerly of Managua, Nicaragua, met her husband, Rector native James Cox, while he was on vacation. The two fell in love, were married and she returned with him to Rector.

Coming from a large city, she said she originally didn't believe James when he told her he came from a town where there wasn't a single stop light. So when Bellys arrived in Arkansas in 2004 she experienced complete culture shock.

Growing up in a tropical area where there are two seasons, summer and the rainy season, she said the first winter she spent in Rector she barely went outside. However, in this new world she found adventure and new challenges. College wasn't as accessible in Nicaragua, because there were no minimum wages or scholarships.

"You may have a family living off $400 a month in Nicaragua," Bellys said. Also, the government did not take an active interest in helping to educate the youth.

"America really is the land of opportunity," Bellys said. "You can achieve your dreams."

Bellys had already earned her high school diploma and spent three years in college before coming to the U.S., but when she arrived no one would accept her credentials from outside of the country. "Anyone who wants to work in the U.S. must have a high school or GED diploma," Bellys said.

She said this was a good thing though, because she began taking GED courses at the Northeast Arkansas Innovative Training Center in Rector. Not only did she earn a GED diploma, but she learned to speak English and better understand the new culture in which she suddenly found herself submerged. After completing the GED courses and passing the online test to receive her GED diploma in 2008, Bellys realized bigger dreams were in her future.

She began the continuation of her education at Black River Technical College in Pocahontas, where she earned her associate degree in art. She then attended Arkansas State University, where she earned a bachelor's degree in Spanish. She recently was accepted into an accelerated program to earn a bachelor of science in nursing, which she will begin in July and finish in a short 13-month period.

Her husband was her inspiration for pursuing a nursing degree, because after he retired from the Air Force, where he was air traffic controller, he earned an associate in nursing and she feels "nursing is a respected profession that will not only benefit me, but others."

During Bellys' time pursuing her GED, she also found a good friend in her teacher, Carolyn Baker. When Bellys came to America she was lost without any family or friends to lean on. "Back home the whole family, mother, my brothers, nieces and nephews would all get together on the weekends," Bellys said. "We were very close."

Baker was the GED instructor at Rector when Bellys began her journey and she has returned now. She works through the Black River Technical College education center, but off campus in the school's satellite programs. She previously worked in Corning and Piggott, but now is working at the training center in Rector as Christina Boyd has been successful in bringing GED classes back to Rector.

Baker is a GED success story herself. "I got my GED when I was 32 and never thought I'd go to college," Baker said. However, "I had a lot of friends who were school teachers and they convinced me to further my education." She first attended Williams Baptist College before transferring to Arkansas State University, where she earned a BSE in education. She graduated in 1990 at the age of 40 and began her career helping others achieve their dreams with Black River Technical College.

Baker said before beginning GED classes the TABE test is taken, which tells the instructor which areas each student needs to improve on in order to take the final GED test. "Many of the students I have are older and have children and work, so coming to class consistently isn't a reality," Baker said. "We tell them come when you can as often as you can."

Her first year at Rector there were a total of eight students, but that number will not keep classes going in this day and age. "We go where the numbers are, which is why we need students," Baker said.

Baker is joined by Heidi Henderson as a GED instructor at the training center this summer. The next set of GED classes begins July 6 with classes on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. and also on Monday and Tuesday from 4 to 8 p.m. Enrollment is open, meaning students can enroll even after the program begins, Christina Boyd said.

Baker stressed the importance of education. "There are so many more opportunities for employment and growth when you have an education," she said.

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