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After 41-Year Career Closes, VGCC Student Getting New Skills to Compete

Obviously, Barbara Jiggetts is not afraid of hard work. For the past 41 years, she did labor-intensive work at J.P. Taylor Tobacco Co. in Henderson. Prior to that, she had picked cotton and worked in the tobacco harvests.

While at J.P. Taylor, Barbara hung tobacco and cut damaged tobacco, she swept, straightened, served as ticket girl, cook and kitchen helper. And she performed these tasks on a 10-hour third shift the first 18 years so that she would be available in the mornings to get her two children off to school.

“There were many nights I would cry from my tired and aching back, feet, shoulders, arms and neck,” she said. But she persevered. That her children – Edward Jr. and Justine – achieved perfect attendance is evidence of her diligence.

This year, J.P. Taylor closed its doors and Barbara, who dropped out of Henderson Institute at age 16 to go to marry Edward D. Jiggetts Jr. and start a family, found herself out of work and having to compete with much younger people for jobs. “I knew I had to get as many skills as possible to get an edge,” she said.

Mary Esther Marrow, a 75-year-old co-worker, had told Barbara, “Go to school and learn all you can because J.P. Taylor is going to leave us soon.”

“I had always wanted to get my high school diploma and wear a cap and gown,” Jiggetts said. Amidst the shock, anger and disappointment of J.P. Taylor closing its doors only a few years before she reached retirement age, she stayed strong in her faith and belief that when one door closes another one opens. The doors of opportunity swung open for Barbara Jiggetts at Vance-Granville Community College.

Vance-Granville was not new territory for Barbara. She earned her GED from the school in November 2001 at age 58, joining her sister, Dorothy, who is a year younger, in walking across the stage in cap-and-gown to accept their diplomas. Another sister, Johnnie Boyd, also got her GED from VGCC.

Then Barbara Jiggetts set her goals higher and obtained her Certified Nursing Assistant I, graduating on March 28, 2002. Still convinced she needs all the skills possible and always striving for more knowledge, she is currently enrolled in Human Resources Development courses at VGCC, including basic computers, substitute teacher training and customer service.

But Barbara Jiggetts is full of plans and dreams. She wants to continue at VGCC and earn her Certified Nursing Assistant II, would like to study the Early Childhood Associate and would even like to study floral arranging so she can work at a florist’s.

Barbara Jiggetts has already accomplished a lot in her life. In addition to her long work life and raising two children, she has been named Ms. Holy Temple at her church, has been selected as Mother of the Year by the local chapter of the NAACP, and was given the Mankind Award in 2001 by the Sertoma Club. But she has many more dreams and goals.

“I would like to help the elderly and keep five to seven of them in my home,” she said. She would also like to work with slow learners. “If I can help one child like this, I would be a happy woman.”

Barbara Jiggetts has a lot of catching up to do in a hurry. As she says, “I wish I could have gone to school 25-30 years ago. Just think where I could be now.”