When twins Bobby and Michael Butler were born in 1988, their parents were told that the boys would never be able to advance educationally beyond an elementary level. However, after being enrolled in the Adult Basic Education Program (ABE) at Co-Lin for four years, the brothers not only obtained their GED credentials, but they were recently honored as South State Students of the Year by the Mississippi Association of Adult and Community Education.
The twins were born with multiple learning and social disabilities, however their family never stopped believing in their ability to learn. After failed attempts at regular and special education classes in schools in Louisiana and Mississippi, the twins were homeschooled by their mother, Kathleen Butler, of Bogue Chitto. However, after many years, the boys still had not completed a degree.
In 2008, they began attending adult education classes at Co-Lin. Initial diagnostic testing only seemed to confirm what the twins' parents had been told at birth. Still, Kathleen Butler insisted that they take classes so that, according to her, "they could feel normal and have something to do."
With little real expectation of gaining a GED, the boys nevertheless faithfully attended class. As time went by, they became very engaged in study, and when it came time for them to be post-tested, both young men showed marked improvement.
It was then that those who were involved in teaching the boys began to think that it might be possible for them to pass a section of the GED test. Piece by piece over a prolonged period of time, the twins worked to pass test sections, eventually passing all sections. They were given additional instruction to help boost their scores. Michael was the first to receive his GED credential over the summer of 2012. Bobby followed, receiving his GED credential in the fall of 2012. They were able to participate in the GED graduation ceremony at Co-Lin last December.
Both the twins and their mother credit Co-Lin and instructors such as David Langston, who serves as ABE trainer, instructor and data input specialist at Co-Lin, with helping the boys to gain not only an education, but self-worth.
"Mr. Langston encouraged me to stick with the program, even if it took years to complete," Michael said. "I went from thinking I'd never finish school to thinking I could do anything."
Bobby said he appreciated that Langston was tough, but fair.
"He didn't give me any special treatment. He's the kind of teacher who will teach you if you want to learn."
Kathleen says the Co-Lin ABE program has been an answer to many years of prayers.
"Mr. Langston was the first person who really helped the boys," she said. "He and the other instructors at Co-Lin went above and beyond what anyone else had ever done for them."
Langston gives all the credit to the twins.
"They earned it," he said. "The Butler twins are proof positive that if they can do it, anyone can do it."
The Butler brothers live in Bogue Chitto near their parents, and Michael is planning to enroll in the Automotive Technology program at Co-Lin in the fall.
The Adult Basic Education program at Co-Lin offers free classes to assist adults in achieving a high school equivalency (formerly known as GED) credential. For information on ABE classes, call (601) 643-8655.