Foundation for the Mid South helps Jones College’s Commercial Trucking program go into “overdrive”

ELLISVILLE –The Foundation for the Mid South’s $46,000 grant has helped Jones College’s commercial truck driving program go into “overdrive.”  One of the goals of the Foundation for the Mid South grant is to help fill the demand for more truck drivers.

“According to the Foundation for the Mid South, more than 11,000 truck driver jobs are available in Mississippi. Their intent is to bridge the gap between our programs and the areas of need in the state,” said Jones College’s Grant Coordinator, Dr. Mike Cole.

The majority of the grant has been used to help the Jones commercial truck driving program in various ways said Jones commercial truck driving instructor, Billy Miller.

“This grant has provided much needed maintenance for our aging fleet of trucks, four trailers and a dump truck. Tires alone cost several thousand dollars and we’ve purchased other equipment for the five commercial trucks used to train the regions’ future truckers.”

Jones will also be offering commercial truck driving in all four of the college’s county centers located in Bay Springs, Leakesville, Stonewall and Waynesboro, as well as the main campus in Ellisville. Additionally, some of the grant money will be used to support students and other skills-pathway options for students at Jones.

Jones College’s engineering students tour MSU

 ELLISVILLE – Twenty four of Jones College’s engineering majors toured one of the state’s renowned engineering facilities at Mississippi State University.  In addition to being able to tour the Bagley College of Engineering, students toured the Center for Advanced Vehicular Systems (CAVS) and the High  Voltage Lab at MSU.  Exposing students to their future professors and university facilities helps them find the best college to fit their needs.

“This is a great opportunity for students to see the academic setting and the applications of the engineering courses they will take in the future,” said Jones engineering and physics instructor, Mary Boleware. “It is very helpful for the students to ‘see themselves’ at the next level before they transfer.”

This is 19th-year Boleware has taken Jones students to tour the college of engineering at MSU. Students met with faculty and MSU students in various areas of engineering. At the CAVS, they were introduced to areas of research including the Eco Car and the Car of the Future, a 3D metals “printer”, and the virtual reality labs. While at the High Voltage Lab, Jones students enjoyed demonstrations of lightning strikes and other electrical engineering displays.

Cathy Northington shares how Jones College students can be leaders making a difference

ELLISVILLE – Mississippi Economic Council COO, Cathy Northington spent a morning at Jones College recently sharing how Jones College students can be leaders who make a difference as the guest speaker for the college’s annual Black History Leadership program. Despite the many obstacles in her way, like leaving college to have a child and being raised by her grandmother, Northington discovered a way to be a leader in her field.

“I remember complaining to my grandmother, ‘I’m tired and I want to stop working. I don’t feel like my voice is being heard the way I wanted it to be heard,’” explained Northington to Jones students. “My no-nonsense grandma in her meek and mild manner told me, ‘It’s not about you. It’s about what you can do for others.’ That was the gut punch I needed.  At that moment I knew that I needed to lead to make a difference.”

The Jackson native studied marketing at Mississippi College and graduated from the Institute for Organization Management, an intensive four-year nonprofit leadership training program conducted by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce at the University of Georgia. She was able to rise to the top as Chief Operating Officer of the MEC, Mississippi’s leading and largest broad-based business organization, working part-time before becoming MEC’s Senior Vice President and Chief Administrative Officer and current COO, because of that “defining moment” with her grandmother.  She decided to become a leader who is teachable, compassionate and empathetic. As the, Our Mississippi Magazine’s and the Women’s Fund, 2018 Business Woman of the Year, Northington applied her grandmother’s wisdom to become a successful leader.

“Being a leader is one of the hardest jobs and it’s also one of the most rewarding…. In order to be teachable, you have to understand you’re never too old to learn. You have to care about those that you’re leading to being compassionate. If you are empathetic, it’s not always easy, but you have to allow yourself to be vulnerable. To whom much is given, much is required. Serve, even when you’re not getting paid to serve.”

She challenged the audience to consider the “pearls” of wisdom they can leave and collect, as well as what kind of blessings they can leave behind. Coordinator of the event and Jones College’s assistant to the president for corporate training, Dr. Samuel Jones, added we can all learn from each other, but we also have to discover our purpose in life to impact our surroundings.

“There is a purpose for everything. I encourage you students to find the purpose in all of your challenges, in all of your struggles and in everything you face in this thing called life, because this is what leading to make a difference is all about,” said Dr. Jones.

Northington also urged students to get out of their comfort zones and be disciplined to make the soundtrack of their lives what they want it to be; positive or negative.

Jones College’s Symphonic Band kicks off concert season

ELLISVILLE- Jones College’s Symphonic Band recently performed before 500 middle and high school students from the region at the annual Southeast Mississippi Band Director’s Association’s (SEMBDA) annual band clinic. This annual event kicks off the concert season for the 60 member group which will conclude with a Thursday, April 4, performance at 7 p.m. in the M.P. Bush Fine Arts Auditorium at Jones College.

Next weekend, February 8-9, Jones College will host its own Band Clinic for area middle and high school musicians. The JC Jazz band will be performing while students audition to learn their band assignments.
The JC Band Clinic’s concert will be at 1:30 p.m. on Saturday, February 9, at Jones College. For more information contact Jones College’s Director of Bands, Dr. Ben Burge at 601-477-4095 or email

Jones College Symphonic Band Members


+Scarlett Sandifer, Laurel

Sarah Suttle, Petal

Kemberly Freeman, Ellisville

Lynda Bazor, Perry Central


+Hayley Jackson, Germantown

Bria Sims, Laurel

Lauryn Heidelberg, Laurel

Taylor Gates, Magee

Ariel Smith, Hattiesburg

Breanna Garrard, Hattiesburg

Sidney Lee, Ellisville

Tyrikus Hayes, Quitman

Haleigh Fitzgerald, Pearl

Bass Clarinet:

+Baylee Walter, Richland

James Smith, Jr., Hattiesburg

Alto Saxophone:

+Joshua Anderson, Greene County

Brandon Pedersen, Petal

Brandi Cooley, George County

Max Burge, Hattiesburg

Emerald Meadows, Richton

John Harrison, Laurel

Tenor Saxophone:

+Blake Pryor, Laurel

Caitlyn Holifield, Laurel

Baritone Saxophone:

+Sydney Herrington, Enterprise


+Ryan Nowell, Ellisville

Logan Donald, Ellisville

Matthew Dodd, Petal

Hunter Gammill, Hattiesburg

Nicholas May, Mendenhall

Michael Brown, Laurel

Daniel Easley, Petal


+Jorge Castillo, Ellisville

Haley Young, Vancleave

Lauren Flynt, Soso

Chrissi Millwood, Brandon


+Brandon Broome, Sumrall

Bryce Cooper, Wayne County

Hayden Brewer, Wayne County

Clay Whitt, Vancleave

Linda Echenique, Laurel

Cameron Graves, Petal

Bass Trombone:

+Bethany Miller, Ellisville


+Buster Jarrell, Ellisville

Amouri Jones, Laurel

Miracle Smith, Quitman


+Cooper Mangum, Morton

Nathan Terry, Hattiesburg

Caitlyn Robinson, Richton


Keith Briggs, Ocean Springs

Amanda Flynn, Petal

Austin Lee, Purvis

Clouzell Leggett, Oak Grove

Elizabeth Morrison, Long Beach

Mackenzie Parish, Hattiesburg

Mary Helen Sherman, Pass Christian

Amy Spears, Seminary

Sage Touchstone, Hattiesburg

Derrick Williams, Laurel

String Bass:

Matthew Haight, Mobile, AL





Jones College’s Theater Department presents, “Hairspray” 

ELLISVILLE- Jones College’s theater production of “Hairspray” is taking audiences back to the ’60s when the beehive and the flipped-bob hairdo’s were popular and social problems erupted. Star-struck teenybopper, Traci Turnblad, played by Kassidy Chandler of Laurel, takes the audience on an adventure to see her dream of dancing on a TV show and dating the popular heartthrob, Link Larkin, played by James Bilbo of Ellisville, come to life. Along the way, Traci is exposed to a world with racial tensions and change on the horizon. While poking fun at the stereotypes of the era, JC’s production of “Hairspray” with its catchy tunes and clever lyrics features a talented cast of more than 35 students, a live orchestra and a couple of seasoned pros. “Hairspray” is produced and directed by JC theater instructor, Jennifer Bruton, and she is assisted by musical performer, Bruce Smith.

“We chose “Hairspray” because we wanted something familiar, fresh and really fun! This is a high-energy show with a big and very diverse cast. The students made our casting decisions very difficult since over 60 of them auditioned! The administration has been incredibly encouraging and we’re receiving additional support from across the campus, from set construction to styling wigs!” said Bruton.

This year, an additional performance includes opening night on Thursday, February 28, at 7 p.m. The cast will perform two shows on Saturday, March 2, at 2:30 and at 7 p.m.  The final performance of “Hairspray” will be Sunday, March 3, at 2:30 p.m. in the M. P. Bush Fine Arts Auditorium on the JC campus in Ellisville. Tickets are $5 for children 17 and under and $10 for adults with free admission for JC students and faculty with a valid ID. Tickets can be purchased at the door. The movie version was rated PG, however parents should use their discretion for children younger than middle school. For more information, please contact Jennifer Bruton at 601-477-2675 or email her at,

The Broadway musical “Hairspray” is based on the John Waters movie and is a winner of eight Tony awards. Set in Baltimore in the early 1960s, “Hairspray” challenges the audience to see all the characters as equals regardless of race, size, or gender. While at the WZZT-TV studios, host Corny Collins played by the seasoned performer, Bruce Smith of Ellisville and Motormouth Maybelle, played by JC student, Denise McAddo of Bay Springs, spin the tunes that all the hippest kids are dancing to.

“I am so excited to be involved with Jones College Fine Arts,” said Bruce Smith who graduated from Jones in 1990 and performed in both of the college’s musicals. “The experience helped me prepare for a career in music and I am so excited to see this same thing happen for the students now. Jones was such a wonderful launching pad to prepare me.”

Also, joining the student cast is former JC Theater and USM graduate, Harlan Mapp of Hattiesburg as Traci’s mother, Edna Turnblad.

“The role of Edna has always been on my list of roles I would love to play simply because it’s so offbeat and different. She’s a big woman and loads of fun!” said Mapp. “Most importantly, I get the chance to interact with students who are in the same place I was just three years ago.  I hope I can impact their theatrical lives like Joe Vanzandt did for me when he joined the cast of ‘Smoke on the Mountain’ when I was at JC.”

Tracy Turnblad is played by Laurel’s Kassidy Chandler, who is debuting on the Jones stage, however, she is a familiar face to audiences attending productions at West Jones High School and the Laurel Little Theatre. The musical, “Hairspray” drew her back to performing Chandler explained.

“This is one of my favorite musicals of all time because it is a really fun show with a great message. After taking some time off from performing, I began to really miss it.  When I found out the musical was going to be ‘Hairspray’ I knew this was the show I wanted to get back into performing in musical theater,” Chandler said.

Also new to the Jones stage is Columbia’s, Lane Smith. The freshman has performed in several musicals at Columbia High School and couldn’t pass up the chance to play Tracy’s dad, Wilbur Turnblad.

“I haven’t had many challenges figuring out Wilber Turnblad. He is a very loving father and husband to Tracy and Edna and wants nothing more than to provide for his family. I am so honored to get to portray this loyal, lovable character who I can really relate to,” said Smith.

A couple of regulars on the Jones College stage, Davonzell Moncrief of Montrose and Kendra Stevison of Lucedale, have important roles in the musical. Moncrief plays Seaweed Stubbs, the African American boy who teaches Tracy some dance moves to help her reach her dream.  He also begins dating Tracy’s friend, Penny Pingleton played by Stevison, which sparks a little conflict.

“Seaweed, who is probably the most controversial character in this production because of his race and his relationship with the young ingénue Penny Pingleton, is very similar to me. We share many characteristics except he is a dancer and I am not! The dancing is probably the most difficult part for me but I do get to do a few splits on stage and after much practice, I am discovering I do have a few moves!” said Moncrief.

Another pivotal character, Velma Von Tussle, portrayed by freshman, Lauren Hankins of Laurel, is the villainess of the musical.  She is the racist producer of The Corny Collins Show and attempts to keep Tracy from integrating and dancing on the show.

“To portray Velma, I had to keep in mind that she is a character that everyone hates.  She is very intimidating and she’s not a redeemable character, but usually, the ‘villain’ roles are the most fun to play!” said Hankins, who has been performing at the Laurel Little Theater and Encore Performing Arts Theater since she was five-years-old. “Velma is racist and that’s definitely something I don’t believe in. I have to remember that it was a different time and that it’s all acting.”

In addition to the many singers, dancers and musicians performing live, Bruton said many audience members often don’t realize that none of it can happen without an incredible amount of work behind the scenes.

“We want our students to know that the entertainment industry is a great career path for Jones College graduates. Theatres need welders, electricians, sound engineers, costume designers, and a host of other talented people; not just actors and singers,” Bruton explained.

For a look at rehearsal pictures, find the Facebook page, Jones College Musical Theatre, and the hashtag, #YouCantStoptheBobcats.

Cast of Hairspray 1-19

Tracy Turnblad – Kassidy Chandler, Laurel

Edna Turnblad- Special Guest-Harlan Mapp

Wilbur Turnblad – Lane Smith, Columbia

Penny Pingleton – Kendra Stevison, Lucedale

Purdy Pingleton/mom – Kalyn Bales, Stringer

Link Larkin – James Bilbo, Ellisville

Corny Collins-Special Guest- Bruce Smith

Seaweed J Stubbs – Davonzell Moncrief, Montrose

Little Inez – Avyana Russell, Houston, TX

Motormouth Maybelle – Denise McAdoo, Bay Springs

Motormouth Ensemble – Lacoby Keys, Moselle

Motormouth Ensemble – Zyion Pittman, Soso

Motormouth Ensemble – James “Mikey” Smith, Hattiesburg

Motormouth Ensemble – Derrick Williams, Laurel

Motormouth Ensemble – Nathaniel Gamblin, Waynesboro

Dynamite, Shayna – Keara Altman, Quitman

Dynamite, Kamilah – Auddsey Dantzler, Hattiesburg

Dynamite, Judine – Reagan Dukes, Laurel

Mr. Pinky/IQ – Jorge Castillo, Ellisville

Velma Von Tussle – Lauren Hankins, Laurel

Amber von Tussle – Addison Nelms, Brandon

Stooie & Seaweed Understudy – Khalil Herron, Laurel

Cindy & Little Inez Understudy – Jada Abraham, Brandon

Brenda – Coco Caldwell, Laurel

Duane – Krimel Chandler, Liberty

Gilbert – DeMoyndre Morgan, Houston, TX

Lorraine – KaLisha Carter, Waynesboro

Louann – Kamryn McGee, Hattiesburg

Shelley – Shaylee Thames, Petal

Spritzer – Caleb Pearce, Ellisville

Tammy – Sydney James, Waynesboro

Council/extra – Ella Barker, Hattiesburg

Council/extra – Jordan Butler, Ellisville

Beatnik/extra Pinkie – Layne Boykin, Waynesboro

Guard/flasher/Hotdog Vendor – Joshua Anderson, Leakesville

Pinkie/extra/matron – Lexie Floyd, Quitman

Principal/Bum – Matthew Haight, Mobile, AL

Gym teacher/Old lady – Emily Howard, Hattiesburg