Jones College’s Caleb Smith wins Southeastern Geographer’s Photo Essay Contest

ELLISVILLE – While working on research on the Mississippi State Flag this fall with a retired geography professor from the University of Kentucky, Jones College geography and history instructor, Caleb Smith stumbled upon a prize-winning photo opportunity. Driving to work, he passed by the Jones County Courthouse in Ellisville and was inspired by the bare flagpole which had displayed the Mississippi State Flag since the courthouse was built in 1908.

“When I drove past the courthouse in October, I realized that the way the sunlight hit the American flag made for a really good photo,” said Smith. “However, what was more intriguing I thought, was the empty flagpole. My photo and essay depict the Ellisville Courthouse when the state did not have a state flag- a flagpole with no flag.”

Realizing the historical importance of such a rare occasion, Smith decided to submit his photo and essay in the Southeastern Division of the American Association of Geographer’s contest prior to the November conference. Members of the association voted on their favorite nominated photos and essays on the conference website before the virtual conference. Smith would have to wait until the closing session to learn his entry won the 2020 Southeastern Geographer’s Photo Essay Contest.

“This was the first time I ever submitted a photo for a contest,” said Smith. “An empty state flagpole is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. The same old state flag has flown on a pole outside that courthouse and in the offices of that building since it was built. From July until November, there was no official flag for the state, so there was no flag on that pole, which is significant because it is rare, very rare.”

The photo and a longer version of the essay will appear in one of the four, 2021 issues of the Southeastern Geographer, the academic journal that is the foremost authority on geography in the South. The process of creating a commission to propose a new state flag and the eventual public vote to support the new flag will be included in Smith’s updated essay.

“I know we walk past or drive past places like this every day, but we don’t think about the messages that these public places present. As you walk into the courthouse, you walk between these two flagpoles that feature the flags of the U.S. and the State of Mississippi. We go inside and pay taxes, pay fines, register to vote, or attend court cases in a building that has these two poles outside that fly the reminders of where we are, what laws we follow, and where our tax dollars go (The U.S. and the state). I think that’s part of the reason why the entry struck a chord with so many people,” explained Smith.

Jones College’s Associate Degree Nurse grads are “COVID-19” prepared

ELLISVILLE – Observing CDC protocols, 41 Jones College Associate Degree Nursing graduates celebrated their successful completion of the five-semester program with the traditional, Nurses Pinning Ceremony in the Bobcat Stadium/Sim Cooley Football Field. Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith noted today’s celebration in the football stadium was an odd place for these nursing graduates, but it is also very appropriate considering their adaptable attitudes have allowed them to be successful.

“If it were easy, we’d all be nurses. You have chosen the most noble profession we can teach at Jones. We are honored you have made it through and are celebrating today. It makes me very proud that the most important thing we do at the college, you have done very well, and we thank you. We know you are going to impact so many lives,” said Smith.

Completing the rigorous but rewarding nursing program was a dream come true after two years of sacrifice, dedication and perseverance for Keira James of Jackson. One of the biggest challenges for James was juggling her responsibilities at home and school.

“Switching to online learning while balancing a life at home with my husband and young toddler was difficult. However, my instructors were so helpful by providing different time slots where we could join lecture conferences at our convenience because so many of us had busy home lives,” said James. “As for working amidst the pandemic, I feel a little more at ease going into a hospital setting with prior education and experience with pandemic protocols and seeing it first-hand. COVID-19 is still concerning, especially as the numbers are back on the rise, but I feel more prepared to help in this pandemic.”

The COVID-19 virus changed these graduates’ normal course of study, and everything else, midway through the A. D. N. program. While it threw a few off-track, for Hannah Lott of Petal, it forced her to find a new way of learning.

“Although online testing didn’t numerically affect my grades, it raised my stress level knowing that I was not able to physically write on a test anymore. We also transitioned into online lectures instead of class lectures, which took a toll on me as well as some of my classmates. However, I believe I adapted very well given the circumstances, and I think the pandemic prepared me for the future and being comfortable with the ‘unknown’ and just learning how to quickly adjust and adapt. In the end, Jones’ nursing instructors and South Central Regional Medical Center provided me with the necessary tools and guidelines needed to help protect myself and others from this virus,”

Being flexible is something graduate, Laura Ellerman of Hattiesburg said she learned as she navigated through the changes the COVID-19 protocols mandated. As both faculty and students worked toward accomplishing mutual goals to attain clinical experience, creative problem solving became more necessary.

“Having evening clinicals is just one example of how we had to be flexible to meet the educational and clinical requirements for this challenging program,” said Ellerman. “The JC A.D. Nursing program not only taught us these abilities, but they also put them in action with us, in real-time.  I will be eternally grateful to the JC COVID-19 Task Force and faculty and SCRMC for diligently and successfully creating, monitoring and maintaining environments that allowed our program to continue to thrive during these trying times.  It was not an easy feat to accomplish!”

Associate Degree Nursing Program Director, Erin Knight, MSN, RN, acknowledged there have been many changes but these graduates have embraced the changes and thrived.  Nurses are well-equipped to best embrace an ever-changing environment.

“The year 2020 has been such a challenge for all of us in so many ways.  We are proud that these students have embraced those challenges and are now able to move out into the workforce.  We know they are ready to take NCLEX-RN and be at the bedside taking care of patients where they will make a difference every day and to every patient they encounter,” said Knight.

At the Pinning Ceremony, five graduates were recognized by Knight for their perfect attendance and dedication. Jasmine Hamilton of McComb, Breanna Helms of Hattiesburg, Harleigh Howell of Ellisville, Madison Odom of Ellisville, and Sarah Sherman of New Hebron.

JC nurse graduates, Brianna Helms, Lori Jones of Hattiesburg, Hannah Lott of Petal, Hannah Smith of Heidelberg, Dalton Sumrall of Moselle and Kaelin Vegas of Columbia were also recognized as the newest members of the Gamma Nu chapter of the Alpha Delta Nu Nursing Honor Society.

Jones College’s PTK students’ “Pantry Drive” impacts thousands of students community-wide

ELLISVILLE – Each year, the Rho Sigma chapter of Jones College’s Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society takes on a project to assist the college’s administration, as well as the campus and the surrounding community. The College Project group of PTK students, McKay Lee Bray of Leakesville; Matthew Harrison of Laurel, Caleb Harris of Jackson, Garrett Bradshaw of Raleigh and Isaac Burns of Lucedale, led by Curtis Boleware of Seminary, quickly discovered the needs were many with the arrival of the COVID-19 virus.

“After talking with JC faculty and administrators who helped us pinpoint what would have the best impact for the most people, we first focused on the college’s pantry program which helps our students who need food or personal hygiene items. However, when the campus and community responded to our request for items, we were overwhelmed!” said PTK College Project Director, Curtis Boleware.

Ellis Club members (pictured left to right), Angie Kelly, (Kristen Register) Kayla Shaw and Julie Brown, deliver donations to Kristen Register (middle left)

Some of the contributions from the community began pouring in after Bobcat Pantry Coordinator, Kristen Register spoke to the Ellis Club. The club’s contribution of $500 in food and other items, along with individual donations from JC’s campus grounds crew, allowed PTK to purchase 167 cases of water and other needed items. Colonel Mark Prine, from Camp Shelby, donated 100 cases of drinks and enlisted a platoon from the Youth ChalleNGe program to disseminate the drinks. Additionally, the JC truck driving program’s students volunteered to pick up donations, and the JC horticultural department delivered some donations. Thankfully, the Baptist Student Union has provided the much-needed storage space for donations to help with future needs.

Kristen Register, JC Bobcat Pantry Coordinator

“The JC Bobcat Pantry thanked us throughout the entire process for packing the pantry. They emphasized the impact we were making would be helping students who live in their cars and the others who need a little help,” said Boleware. “We had no idea so many people were dealing with hunger on campus.”

South Jones Beta Club members (left) and JC student, Curtis Boleware (sitting on water)

Once the need on campus was met, the PTK students sought the help of the Beta Clubs in all of the South Jones schools to fill each of their pantries. The JC students discovered the protocols implemented to limit the spread of the virus at the elementary, middle and high schools included cutting off water fountains and closing the cafeteria. About 2,600 students from three public schools, Moselle Elementary, South Jones Elementary and South Jones Middle and High School benefited from the donations.

“The public schools in the area were astonished to receive the large amount of donations we had gathered,” said Boleware. “Our PTK members really enjoyed giving back to the community and volunteering at the drop-off booths at the Baptist Student Union and in the football stadium parking lot.”

PTK Advisor, Mark Brown said he is especially proud of this group of students and their determination to succeed. As they overcame each challenge, they were blessed by their efforts of those who donated.

Garrett Bradshaw, Isaac Burns, Matthew Harrison, Caleb Harris, Curtis Boleware and McKay Lee Bray.

“This group had to overcome the fact there were a lot fewer students on campus and they had to physically distance themselves and follow the sanitizing protocols. Unfortunately, the student director of the College Project, Curtis Boleware came down with the COVID-19 virus, but he still managed to take care of business.”

While preparing for the Pantry Drive, JC students said they didn’t realize the enormity of the problem. However, the impact the drive has made on so many people has been astounding. Surprising the PTK College Project members the most were the reactions from the students and school officials. In fact, one JC PTK member, Lane Douglas of Pearl, was so moved by the whole experience that he donated an entire pallet of water, or 84 cases, to the College Project’s Pantry Drive.

“I have firsthand proof that one person really can make a difference, not by his own hands but by connecting those that need help with those that want to help. Leading this project has helped me grow in several aspects. I look forward to continuing our work next semester!” said Boleware.

Phi Theta Kappa’s College Project team plans to expand their efforts in the spring semester by involving local churches and businesses to ensure that the project continues to grow until the needs in the community are met. Donations of toiletries, canned foods, non-perishable foods like Ramen Noodles, grits and water will be accepted shortly after the spring semester begins and students return to campus, February 1, 2021.

Jones College students receive PRVEPA Scholarships

ELLISVILLE – Jones College freshman, Emma Burge is one of 31 Jones College students who received a scholarship from Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association’s Round Up for Education program this year. The Oak Grove High School graduate received the $500 scholarship, funded by the spare change donated by PRVEPA’s more than 51,000 members in the electric power cooperative’s 12-county service area.

“I am grateful for the scholarship money from Pearl River Valley Electric Power Association’s scholarship program. Most of the scholarship is used for school expenses, which is a big help to students during these hard times. My family and I really appreciate this!” said Burge who is pursuing a degree in the music and entertainment industry.

Her family discovered PRVEPA’s scholarship program two years ago when Burge’s brother Max came to Jones. Emma’s father, Dr. Ben Burge said he appreciates the financial assistance. As an educator and the Jones College Director of Bands, Burge knows the value and fully understands the importance scholarships can have in helping students earn a college degree.

“As a parent with two college-aged children, I sincerely appreciate the financial opportunities that this organization provides. It greatly helped my family get both students off to college,” said Burge. “I also know first-hand, as an educator, scholarships go a long way in helping students achieve their educational goals.”

This year, a total of 175 community college students received a $500 scholarship because of PRVEPA’s generous members. At Pearl River Community College, 107 students received the financial assistance and 27 students from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College were eligible for the scholarship. An additional 10 students are attending four other state community colleges with PRVEPA scholarships.

“The purpose of electric cooperatives has always been to make life better in the areas they serve,” said PRVEPA’s General Manager, Randy Wallace. “Our Round Up for Education program is an example of how cooperatives can improve the lives of their members through education which is vital to improving the future for all of us in south Mississippi.”

For the last eight years, the electric power cooperative’s members have been offering up their spare change to collect more than $1.6 million, which is deposited in an account overseen by the PineBelt Foundation. Ten percent of each year’s funds are set aside in an endowed fund for future use.  The remaining money is divided equally between the number of eligible applicants. Over the last eight years, 1,651 students have been helped from the spare change from members of PRVEPA, with a total of 319 Jones College students benefitting from the benevolence of PRVEPA’s members.

“I hope our members are able to see the effects this program can have, helping more than 1,600 community college students begin their college careers,” said Wallace. “We are thrilled with the results and know that members’ participation in the program will have a positive impact for years to come.”

Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith is very grateful for PRVEPA’s desire to invest in the students living in their service area and believing in them to succeed.

“We’re very thankful for their vision and I’m very thankful their members believe in this scholarship program as well. It is obvious their support will help our state continue to grow,” said Smith. “Anytime a civic club or organization invests in its people, like the PRVEPA Round Up for Education scholarship program, the whole community benefits.”

Scholarships are available to members, their spouses or dependent children who are enrolled as freshmen each fall, and who participate in the Round Up for Education program. Members round up their bill to the nearest dollar each month. The Round Up for Education funds collected after August 1, go towards next year’s scholarships. Students can apply for the scholarship beginning in November of each year.

Jones College Students  Hometown           High School

Nyla Zarai Abram              Foxworth                    West Marion

Ashely Brooke Allee        Purvis                          Presbyterian Christian School

Cameron Aultman            Sumrall                        Sumrall

Emma Burge                        Oak Grove                  Oak Grove

Chandler Burns                   Hattiesburg                 Shaw HS

Sullivan Clark                        Sumrall                        Sumrall

Hunter Scott Courtney    Bassfield                     Columbia Academy

Bryce Crawford                    Hattiesburg                 Oak Grove

Teel Garcia                              Hattiesburg                 FCAHS

Johni Graham                         Hattiesburg                 Oak Grove

Justice Hanberry                 Sumrall                        Sumrall

Halle Hendrix                        Purvis                          Purvis HS

Kyle Herring                           Hattiesburg                 Columbia Academy

Coleman Kendrick               Purvis                          FCAHS

Tytan Lee                                Lumberton                  Sacred Heart HS

Tyler Lowe                              Purvis                          Purvis HS

Mackenzie Mauldin            Sumrall                        Sumrall

Jaclyn  Mordica                    Hattiesburg                 FCAHS

William Purser                      Hattiesburg                 Oak Grove

Conner Rayburn                   Purvis                          FCAHS

Taylor  Ready                          Hattiesburg                 Sumrall

Ethan Robertson                    Kokomo                      West Marion

Jacob Rogers                           Brooklyn                     FCAHS

Kealy Smith                              Hattiesburg                 Oak Grove

Rebecca Speights                  Silver Creek                GED

Abigail Swilley                          Hattiesburg                 Oak Grove

Colby Thompson                     Columbia                     Columbia Academy

Laka Till                                       Seminary                     Seminary

Benson Trussell                       Hattiesburg                 Sumrall

Hannah West                             Purvis                          Oak Grove

Nathan Whitworth                   Hattiesburg                 FCAHS

Jones College students select Mr. & Miss JC

ELLISVILLE –Isaac Burns of Lucedale and Dariyel Johnson of Leakesville were recently voted as Mr. & Miss JC by their peers. The sophomores competed for the titles to represent Jones College students and are considered to be the best representation of the student body.

“To put it frankly, this means the world to me. I came to Jones knowing that I wanted to make the most of it. After the time I’ve spent here and the amazing connections I’ve made, I can confidently say that I have done just that. JC has become a second home to me,” said Johnson.

The broadcast journalism and political science major also holds the titles of Leakesville’s Miss Hospitality 2019, Greene County High School Homecoming Queen, Miss GCHS and Mississippi Beta Club State Vice President. At Jones College, Johnson was also selected as 2019-20 Most Beautiful, Freshman Class President and Homecoming Maid, and she is the SGA Student Body President. In addition, Johnson is a member of the Charles Pickering Honors College, the Concert Choir and the Bobcat Brigade student ambassador program. With her eyes set on being a TV reporter/anchor, Johnson plans to transfer to the University of Mississippi to earn her bachelor’s degree.

“Jones gives you a university experience with the relationships that feel like you’ve known everyone all of your life. There is no way that you cannot love it here. You just have to make the most of it,” she said.

Mr. JC is interested in the artistic expression of journalism. In high school, Burns was the sports editor and cartoonist for, “The Student Press” high school newspaper. He won the Mississippi Press Association’s Best Editorial Cartoon Award in 2017. Also, in high school, Burns was a member of the tennis team, the choir’s piano accompanist and he graduated in the Top 20 of his class. Burns is majoring in accounting at Jones College while sharing his many talents in several clubs and organizations on campus. As a freshman, he was a Leadership Officer in Bobcat Brigade and he was a member of Jones OnStage show choir. This year, Burns is a Senator representing the Business Department in the Student Government Association. He also serves as the Public Relations Director for Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society’s Rho Sigma chapter at Jones.

“I am extremely grateful and honored that the student body has chosen me as an ambassador for the college. Jones College is an amazing place to be partly because the students and faculty are very friendly. My goal has always been to make people feel welcomed and loved which I hope has been accomplished,” said Burns.

The future plans for the George county native include graduating from the University of North Carolina School of Arts for filmmaking with the ultimate career goal of creating the visual effects in the film industry.