Saved by the bell

First Posted: 11/2/2012

LUMBERTON — At an antique store at 119 W. Fourth St., old trinkets and furniture twinkle in the showroom. In the back, voices tell of more than just a store full of nostalgia — they tell of adults overcoming their fears.

“They’re adult high school students, and they range in age from 17 to their early 40s,” Linda Sanderson, their teacher, said.

The adult high school class, which runs from 8 a.m. to 1:30 p.m. Mondays through Thursdays, used to be at the Hilly Branch Career Center. The class moved to the back of the store for its “personal atmosphere” after it was renovated by its owner, Sanderson’s husband Wesley.

As the tall, thin teacher explains the schedule in the classroom, students write in black-and-white composition books.

“Writing each day in a journal frees them up for thinking,” Sanderson said. “So when it comes time to write a research paper, they’re not so spooked.”

The students have overcome many fears to make it to class. Some had to drop out of high school because of drug addiction or early pregnancy, others because they “didn’t get along with the teachers.” But despite overcoming these challenges, one of the greatest fears they have of going back to school is as simple as being the “new kid” — a sentiment quickly negated by the camaraderie in the classroom.

“They beat me here in the morning,” Sanderson said. “They all want to be here. The young ones mix with the older ones and they get to hear them tell them the same things their parents do. The older ones also have children their age, so they can get that perspective.”

Every student’s work is individualize. They work one-on-one with Sanderson on classes they need to complete in order to get a diploma. But recently, they participated in a project that put them on the same page.

“We put them into two groups, they had to think of as many words as they could relating to fall and Halloween,” Sanderson said. “They came up with 1,219 words total between the two groups.”

The students used the words to write Haikus, which are short Japanese poems that consists of five syllables in the first stanza, seven in the second and five in the third. They dressed up in honor of the season to present their Haikus, and the other projects inspired by the assignment.

Louise Frederick made a three-story, miniature haunted house to accompany her group’s project.

“I made it out of shoe boxes and things in my yard,” she said.

Flipping through the pages of their binders, the students proudly display all that they’ve accomplished, and the sacrifices they’ve made to come to class.

“I would have graduated last May, but I got hit on 74 and I was in a coma for three months,” Katrina Fullmore said. “I have two children, 15 and 12. I’m trying to get done so my kids can’t say, ‘You quit, we can too.’”

Belinda Smith, who wants to become a nurse, has three children and works at a pie plant.

“I work from 4:30 p.m. to 4:30 a.m.,” Smith said. “I drop my kids off at school and get here at 8 a.m.”

Brittany Turner, who smiles from under a blue wig, also worked at a plant, but wanted something more. Now she enjoys history, and is considering — at Sanderson’s suggestion — becoming a history teacher.

In total, six valedictorians have come out of Sanderson’s classroom. They had an overall 93 average and placed the highest among all the adult high school students. Some have graduated from Fayetteville Technical Community College, others have started their own businesses and some have become nurses.

Nine students now make it to Sanderson’s classroom in the mornings, past the antiques and into the back room where they ultimately face their biggest fear — failure.

“I tell them that they’ve already quit once before,” Sanderson said. “No matter what they start, as long as they never quit, they’re going to be winners.”

Pointing to a slogan on the wall, the students recite the words which have become more of a mantra.

“Winners never quit,” they say, “and quitters never win.”

Halloween is fun

Children get lots of candy

Children sure love it.

By Katrian Fullmore

Adult high school starts.

Better yourself and


It is rewarding.

By Tonya Collins

For information about adult high school, call Terry Jackson at 910-272-3611 or

Rocky Peterkinat 910-272-3605.