Ricks: Leaving YES is bittersweet

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 3, 2016

Ronda Ricks is shown with YES Program graduates Heather Sanders and Johnathan Cox.

Ronda Ricks is shown with YES Program graduates Heather Sanders and Johnathan Cox.

Covington County’s YES Program is losing the apple of its eye.

Ronda Ricks is leaving next week, and she said it’s bittersweet.

Her husband, Ralph, left two and a half years ago to work at Clemson University as a beef cattle researcher.

“I call him the cow whisperer,” she joked.

Ricks said that she stayed in Andalusia until their daughter finished at LBWCC, and then worked to sell their home.

Ricks said that she was reared in a military home and was accustomed to her father having to be on leave a lot.

“We talk on the phone every day,” she said.

Ricks said that while she’s excited to move to South Carolina to be with her husband, she’s sad to leave her job.

“I love my job,” she said. “It’s the most rewarding career I’ve ever had. I like to challenge the students to meet their full potential. I probably won’t find another job as rewarding.”

Ricks’ life experiences prepared her for her job as the YES pilot.

“I think it was all part of God’s plan,” she said.

Growing up a military brat and changing schools a lot, Ricks said she soon became uninterested in school, and lacking a credit and a half, she didn’t finish.

“Daddy didn’t want to pay for me to go to summer school,” she said.

A few years later, she went to an interview that set her on fire to earn her GED.

“I went to an interview and the man I was interviewing with told me I was mentally retarded because I didn’t graduate from high school,” she said. “That afternoon I was mad enough that I registered to take the GED and passed it.”

Ricks said she went back to school numerous times, had Savannah at 39 and then graduated at 40.

“I tell them to go while you’re young,” she said.

Since Ricks took the job at the YES program in 2008, she’s worked with an average of 50 students per year. Some graduate and others don’t, but Ricks said she still does everything she can to encourage them. She’s also hard on them, she said.

“Even the kids who have dropped out still recommend the program,” she said. “And they know I’m mean. I’ve been where they are and I know their struggles.”

Andalusia High School counselor Donna Cauley will take Ricks’ place.

“She has a lot of experience,” Ricks said. “She is great and she knows the community. She’s served as a counselor, teacher, business tech teacher. She’s the perfect person for the job.”