Mathews High School cafeteria worker Sarah West Crockett is staying after school these days.
At age 56, Crockett has enrolled in the GED program offered by the Middle Peninsula Regional Adult Continuing Education program (R.A.C.E.) at the school on Tuesday and Thursday evenings. She said she’s working on her GED because of her grandson, Steven Hudgins, a freshman.
"He doesn’t like school," she said. "I told him it means a lot; you need to get your education … I told him I always wanted to know what it feels like to wear a cap and gown. Everybody else has got it. I want it."
Crockett, who grew up at New Point, said she was one of 11 children in her family, and "it was tight for all of us to go to school." She attended New Point School, then went to the old Lee-Jackson and Thomas Hunter Middle School. But she said that, with such a large family, she and two of her siblings had to miss school a lot so they could help out at home, especially during daffodil-picking season.
"We were kept out of school for a month then to pick flowers," she said.
They got in trouble one year when they called in sick so they could pick flowers and their pictures were taken by the newspaper.
"We went back to school, and they asked ‘are you all feeling better?’" said Crockett with a laugh. "We thought it was fun at the time, but it’s not so much fun when you want to get a job and you don’t have the education."
Crockett dropped out of school after completing the seventh grade because she felt that she "couldn’t click on the school work.
"It seemed like it went in one ear and out the other," she said. "It didn’t stay, and I didn’t feel like I was as good as the others."
She has regretted the decision ever since. Crockett’s two children, Edward and Shilina, followed her lead and dropped out of school, as well, but Crockett said that Edward has already earned his GED and Shilina still plans to complete the work to earn her high school diploma.
Although she doesn’t have a diploma herself, Crockett hasn’t let it stop her from pursuing work wherever possible. She successfully studied to become a certified nursing assistant but soon found out the work wasn’t for her and returned to her job in the cafeteria. She has also worked as a housekeeper, and she restores furniture for people on an ongoing basis.