Welcome! Read the latest issue of PROGRESS, featuring inclusive programming in Virginia. Read PROGRESS

Derrick Mitchell

This story comes from Region 6

As adult educators, we have worked with hundreds of adults over our 30+ years of experience at the Staunton/Augusta Adult Learning Center (ALC). During that time, there have been several outstanding students. None stand out like Derrick Mitchell. Derrick has all the characteristics that make for an exceptional student.

Derrick’s native country is Jamaica, and he is very proud of his heritage. He enjoyed sharing stories of his Jamaican schooling when he was writing practice essays to prepare for the National Educational Diploma Program (NEDP) writing assessment. We also learned about the Jamaican languages, the official English and the common dialect, Patois. The Virginia weather was also always a topic of conversation. As soon as the temperature climbed above 50 degrees, Derrick would literally dance into the Center with his shorts and t-shirt on to celebrate the “warm” weather. He left Jamaica and lived in Florida and New York state before ending up in the Shenandoah Valley to be close to his daughter and her family. He wanted to fully embrace the “American Dream” so he enrolled at the ALC to improve his English skills and obtain his high school diploma. Derrick wanted to take advantage of all of the opportunities available to him so, in addition to the other goals mentioned, he worked on learning how to type, got his customer service certification, and passed the citizenship examination with flying colors on his first try.

Derrick presented himself as a very cheerful and laid-back man who always had a smile on his face and words of encouragement to everyone around him. He would always ask the other learners how they were doing and wish them luck on their academic endeavors. He is very intelligent and enjoyed learning for learning’s sake. As a voracious reader, Derrick would read every word of the resources for the NEDP program and asked questions about anything he didn’t understand. He would re-read his answers over and over until they met his high standards. He asked us to help him study for his citizenship examination. We asked him every question in the test preparation workbook, and he got all of them correct. He knew more about American history/citizenship than we did! As soon as he got his citizenship papers, he brought them into the Center so that we could all see them. He was so proud and so were we!

After graduation in June 2022, Derrick returned to Jamaica. He plans to stay there long enough to earn and save enough money to return to the United States. When he comes back, he wants to obtain his under-water welding certification to complement his previous welding training he received in Jamaica. He regularly said that his dream job is to do underwater welding. Based on his intelligence, diligence, and work ethic, there is no doubt in our minds that he will be successful in this next step in his career and life.


Written by Betsy Curry and Esther Perkins, Instructors at the Staunton/Augusta Adult Learning Center