Tiffany Jackson’s life has been tough. She was paralyzed from the waist down at age five in an auto accident caused by a drunk driver that injured her mother and father and killed a cousin. She was forced to repeat kindergarten and first grade and fell so behind in her studies that she was put in a special education class, a decision she couldn’t accept. "My family is really poor. It depends on the government. I just don’t want to do that," said Tiffany, who lives in the onetraffic light town of Nicholls in rural south Georgia’s Coffee County. "Education is the key to having a good life." The HOPE Scholarship put the goal of a college education in reach for Tiffany, who by sixth grade had convinced teachers she belonged in the gifted program. "I wouldn’t have been able to go to college without it," said Tiffany, whose goal is to be a middle school teacher. In 2014, she enrolled in nearby South Georgia State College, depending on HOPE, a Pell Grant and another scholarship. She struggled in a statistics class and lost HOPE in her third semester. But she’s planning to attend Valdosta State this fall and will work to regain HOPE. "I’m going to try my best," Tiffany said. She worked behind a desk in her second year at SGSC, making a little money and, she says, learning a work ethic. Since she didn’t have HOPE, she had to take out a loan for $960, which she proudly reports she’s already paid off. Many of her high school friends received HOPE, Tiffany said. "Around here, unless you are born into a rich family, you either go to college on scholarship or go into manual labor on the more shady side of town," she said. "HOPE’s very important, especially for people around here."
Credit: Nancy Badertscher