Charlotte Adult Learning Center seeks to help the community

Published 10:33 am Wednesday, March 1, 2017

The Charlotte Learning Center is there to help those who need to develop or strengthen their reading skills.

That may not be news, according to a press release, “but its advocates just want to remind everyone of its presence and what the facility has to offer.’

To that end, Executive Director Lonnie Calhoun III is reiterating the center’s standing call for more volunteers and donations to assist with serving neighbors in “a county that is struggling with an appallingly high illiteracy rate,” officials said.

Among those taking advantage of the center’s services is Mary Hayes, a 77-year-old grandmother of six and a GED student.

“Hayes quit school in the seventh grade after already having also failed the second grade. After dropping out, she helped her mother look after Hayes’ five brothers before marrying twice, having three children, and working 20 years at Amelia Dress Company.”

Hayes retired in 2005 and in 2007 started attending Southside Virginia Community College to work on her GED, but the effort faltered, according to the release.

“Hayes found herself in a classroom with the former Burlington Industries workers shortly after their layoffs. She wasn’t comfortable in the setting and dropped out. She said there was the time when she had passed three of the four required classes, but the school switched over from paper testing to computer, forcing her to start over in 2015.”

Hayes remains determined and is at the learning center three hours on Wednesday and Friday.

“I’m going to live to get it,” she said in the release. “I’ve always wanted it for a long time. It would mean a lot to me just to have it.”

Rev. John Hurt can relate.

Hurt, 65, is a member of Prince Edward’s infamous lost generation, comprised of mostly African Americans denied an education when the county closed its schools rather instead of seeing them desegregate.

“In November, he enrolled at the learning center using the scholarship funding made available by the state for the former displaced students adversely affected by the closings. He ended up at the learning center because Prince Edward did not have a comparable program,” officials said.

“At my age, I’m just trying to get schooling for myself, be able to read,” he said. “Once I got back into school, I learned how much I didn’t know.”

Hurt had just completed the first grade when the schools were closed. While the public schools were closed, free schools operated were opened, and he did briefly attend. “But he said, instead of putting him with the students who only had one year of education, they put him with the students his age. It was uncomfortable, he said. When the public schools reopened five years after initially closing, he did not return.”

According to the release, Hurt was one of 12 children in the family when the schools closed. “Their father had died and being out of school, he and his siblings provided badly needed farm labor, he said. Subsequently, when other students were taken in and sent away to other localities or states so that they could continue their education, Hurt said that wasn’t an option for him.”

Eventually, Hurt became pastor at Bethel Grove Baptist Church in Prince Edward and has been married 42 years. The couple has two grown children.

“He has also seen his opportunities in life be limited, and spent years working two jobs — including his regular job at as a heavy equipment operator for the Virginia Department of Transportation.”

“That school thing put a hurt on me,” he said in the release. “I worked just about all my life for half of what I should have been getting. I’m not able to retire … You can’t keep up with a world you’re not trained for,” he said in the release.

Still, like Hayes, he dreams of earning his GED.

“I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been called a fool for going back to school,” Hurt said. “ (I have been) asked, ‘What are you going to do with it? Why you going to let people know you can’t do this (and) can’t do that?’ I tell them I did it for myself. It’s never too late.”

Both say finishing high school now would send a badly needed message to young people.  

“I think it would really inspire others,” Hayes said.

For additional information contact Calhoun at or by telephone at (434) 542-5782.