Three Drum Majors to lead Jones College’s Maroon Typhoon Marching Band  

ELLISVILLE – Three ladies beat out the competition to lead Jones College’s Maroon Typhoon Marching Band next fall. Freshman, Emma Burge of Oak Grove, will be joined by incoming freshmen, Cambry Holifield of Laurel and incoming sophomore, Genna Ramey of Leroy, Alabama, to lead the nearly 200-member organization.

Emma Burge, Cambry Holifield and Genna Ramey are Jones College’s Drum Majors for the Maroon Typhoon Marching Band next fall.

Director of Bands, Dr. Ben Burge explained the three were selected after a competitive audition that included demonstrations, a lengthy interview and a presentation of their field conducting and showmanship.

“These three young ladies displayed the confidence, strength and leadership skills that we are looking for in a drum major. I am eager for them to begin their duties and I look forward to them helping the Maroon Typhoon come out of the year of Covid-19. I believe these drum majors will play a huge part in creating a very special fall on campus,” said Burge.

Leading the group, is Dr. Burge’s daughter, Emma who spent last year as the newest drum major at Jones College. However, she also has experience in the leadership role as the drum major at Oak Grove High School for two years before coming to Jones College.

“I am so excited to be drum major of the Maroon Typhoon for my second year. I am eager to play a part in bringing ‘normal’ back and for all of campus to spring back to life!” said Burge, who is a Music Industry major.

While trying to decide on a major, Holifield is certain of her abilities as a leader of the band. She has been a drum major at Northeast Jones High School for the last three years.

“I am so grateful for this honor and I can’t wait to get started!” said Holifield.

Leroy High School’s Ramey said she is looking forward to coming to Jones College to continue being a part of the music program while majoring in Health Information.

“I’m really thrilled about being a drum major for the Maroon Typhoon this coming fall! Our normal schedule was cut in half last fall, so I’m really excited about our fine arts and athletics having the chance to show off their talents and hard work this fall,” said Ramey.

For more information about the Jones College Band Program contact, Dr. Ben Burge at 601-477-4095 or by email,

Jones College Crowns Caidyn Crowder “Most Beautiful”

ELLISVILLE – Jones College sophomore from Ellisville, Caidyn Crowder was crowned Most Beautiful at the annual Jones College Most Beautiful Pageant, held April 20, in the Fine Arts Auditorium. The biology major was crowned by JC sophomore and 2020 Most Beautiful, Dariyel Johnson of Leakesville. JonesOnstage provided entertainment, and Allyson Knotts emceed the event.

The pageant’s regularly scheduled fall event was postponed due to COVID-19. As vaccinations continue and COVID-19 cases drop, the college began adding spring events, including the pageant. Thirteen ladies participated in this year’s event sponsored by the college yearbook staff.

“Our number of pageant contestants may have been fewer this year due to the pandemic, but it was no less beautiful,” said Kelly Atwood, Lair yearbook advisor. “I have so many people to thank for such a wonderful night: Dr. Tessa Flowers for planning and directing the event, Bruce Smith and Dr. Jennifer Bruton for their work with Jones OnStage, Wendy Wilkerson for the greenery, Patrick Trest for technical support, and all the behind-the-scenes employees who helped make the night perfect.”

A Top Six were chosen this year, which included Crowder, Keely Skellion of Ellisville, Rylee Brabham of Waynesboro, First alternate-Lydia Ruth Odom of Bay Springs, Second alternate-Brinley Bullock of Laurel and Third alternate Karsyn Ulmer of Laurel.

Three additional ladies were also awarded special recognition, including Most Photogenic, Kyra Lampley; Miss Congeniality, Josarah Slover; and Best Essay, Brinley Bullock.

Civil Rights Activist James Meredith & retired U.S. Federal Judge, Charles Pickering discuss race issues at Jones College

ELLISVILLECivil rights activist, James Meredith and U.S. Federal Judge Charles Pickering shared their harrowing stories in their efforts to break the color barrier in education and challenge the Ku Klux Klan in the 1960s with members of the public and students from Jones College’s Honors Institute, which is named in Pickering’s honor. The discussion about racial issues was focused on the Honors Institute’s theme, “To Our Future: A New Day for Mississippi.”

Before reflecting on solutions, Pickering paused the discussion to explain just how courageous Meredith was in his attempts to integrate the then, all-white University of Mississippi in 1962. In the segregated society of the 1950s, Pickering said blacks had to overcome inferior schools, limited employment options, and brutality if they stepped out of line.

“Without question, Mr. Meredith was and is a hero of the Civil Rights Movement,” said Pickering. “He had to know when he enrolled at Ole Miss that the last black man (Clyde Kennard) who tried to integrate an institute of higher learning in Mississippi went to the penitentiary, so it took a lot of courage to be willing to do what he did.”

Meredith told the audience it took him more than 50 years to write his speech sharing his thoughts about religion and law, government and society, and a brief history about slavery in the United States. The almost 88-year-old Kosciusko native continued, “It really didn’t take that long to write but it took that long to have the courage to say it…. The first six words, in the last section of my speech, came from my first history professor at Ole Miss. He’s the one that said, ‘slavery has existed as long as mankind.’”

Meredith also noted Pickering’s battle with the KKK was not because of his race. Segregationists were at war with anyone who wanted to integrate society.

“The people who wanted to keep their way of life (segregation) were no nicer to white folks who violated their way of life than they were to any blacks getting out of line. Some of those threats were about Judge Pickering and others,” said Meredith.

As the new, Jones County prosecuting attorney in 1962, Pickering was thrust into the race war when he said he couldn’t ignore the brutality and numerous criminal actions of the KKK, including the Imperial Wizard of the White Knights, Sam Bowers. He successfully prosecuted Bowers for the murder of the three civil rights workers in Neshoba County and the fire-bombing of Vernon Dahmer’s home in Forrest County which led to Dahmer’s death.

“Today, it is very difficult to imagine such horror and depravity but in the 1960s it was reality. In this type of environment, it took courage for blacks to assert their rights. It took courage for Mr. Meredith because he could lose his job or his life,” said Pickering.

Meredith said despite the challenges of the past, he is optimistic Mississippi will lead the world in race relations.

“Mississippi has made every policy on the Black/White race issue in America. After slavery, the big Mississippi plantation owners and the Wall Street financiers conspired to keep the blacks in the cotton fields by preventing them from relocating to northern or western states,” said Meredith who also earned a law degree from Columbia University. “The Constitution of 1890 established a dual system of criminal justice-one for the whites and one for blacks. America needs a new policy. Mississippi can supply this new reality. I believe that Mississippi will.”

The real problem facing the nation Meredith concluded was more than just race. He referred to what he called the “upper south” or in Minnesota, where Derek Chauvin is on trial for the death of George Floyd.

“I’ve known for a long time that the upper south is where the real problem in America is…and it’s not just a racial problem either. It’s a religious problem and I think the rich/poor issue is the biggest issue,” said Meredith.

Focusing on what he calls his new mission from God, Meredith is actively establishing a Bible Society reading group in every county of the state, encouraging families to read the Bible from cover to cover. Pickering also shared, religion and practicing the “Golden Rule” would help solve our racial problems.

“If we treated everyone without regard for the color of their skin, whether it’s red, white, black, or yellow, if we treated them like we wanted to be treated with respect, that will go a long way to make Mississippi a better place. Jesus made it very plain when talking about the Good Samaritan, our neighbor is everybody we come in contact with that we can help,” said Pickering.

Additionally, Pickering encouraged the audience to know history to help avoid making mistakes in the future. Citing a Roper Organization Report on public opinion, Pickering said the study on seniors in 51 of the most prestigious universities in the U.S. failed basic history, including identifying the three separate branches of government.

“We cannot be intelligent voters and citizens if we don’t know history,” said Pickering. He also added his disapproval about fighting the establishment of the new, Mississippi State flag. “Quit fighting battles that have been futile or lost; that just doesn’t help us. The effort to change the flag back is a misguided effort, looking at the past and not the future of our children.”

Jones College sophomore from Petal, Kyra Lampley said she appreciates what Meredith and Pickering have accomplished. However, while progress has been made, she still faces racial discrimination.

“I feel that everyone should be educated on racial discrimination starting at an early age. The earlier we instill how to treat people, the less likely they will grow up and participate in racial discrimination. Parents should educate their children on racial discrimination and tolerance. Children copy what they see their parents do,” Lampley said.

Forums like the one hosted by Jones College, freshman Alexis Blakeney of Laurel said, are helpful in understanding complex issues.

“Forums improve people’s understanding of current and historical issues. This forum educated more people about the struggles to overcome racial discrimination, hearing first-hand about the courageous efforts of Mr. Meredith and Judge Pickering. I am grateful to be able to attend these forums to educate myself more on the issues,” said Blakeney.

For more information about Jones College’s Charles Pickering Honors Institute, check out the webpage,

Jones College’s Theatre Department presents, “Godspell” 


*Live performances on the Ellisville campus will be on Friday, April 30, and Saturday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, May 2, at 2:30 p.m. at the M. P. Bush Fine Arts Auditorium. All guests will be required to take the health screening, physical distance from other guests and wear masks. To live stream the musical theater production the cost is $10 per person or $25 per family watching together. The link to live stream is

ELLISVILLE- Live and virtual performances of Jones College’s theatre production, Godspell should allow more people to enjoy theater, safely. After canceling last year’s production of Mamma Mia! because of Covid-19, this spring, the JC Theatre Department is excited to have eight Jones College students performing for a variety of audiences.

Led by Jones College’s Theatre instructor, Dr. Jennifer Bruton, JC students, Peyton Griffin of Ellisville (Jesus), Conner Smith of Ellisville (John the Baptist/Judas), Kambri Pippin of Laurel (Uzo), Erin Biglane of Ellisville (Anna Maria), Jalen Poindexter of Jackson (Telly), Peyton King of Sumrall (Lindsay), Kyra Lampley of Petal (Morgan), and Isaiah Smith of Laurel (George) will perform the 1971 Broadway hit show, Godspell. The popular, rock musical based on the Gospel of Matthew, is the first musical theatre production from composer, Stephen Schwartz who went on to write Wicked, Pippin and Children of Eden. John Michael Tebelek wrote the play as a student at Carnegie-Mellon, which originally cast a troupe of clowns who join up with Jesus Christ teaching various lessons through song and dance. Bruton said the show is deeply rooted in community and inclusiveness which is an important message she wanted to share.

“I felt very strongly that given the events of the past year and the role of theatre in creating a home for students who find common ground with their fellow actors, this was the show for us. It calls for an intimate cast of only 10 and with so many of our students enrolled online this year, we actually only have eight cast members,” said Bruton. “Regardless of your religious stance, everyone can relate to the characters in the Prodigal Son parable, or be inspired by the passage, ‘You are the Light of the World,’ because we all need light, we all need each other and that’s what this show is about.”

JC sophomore Peyton Griffin, starred in numerous musicals and show choir performances at South Jones High School, along with JC freshman, Conner Smith. They are eager to perform together once again but for the first time at Jones College. Playing Jesus’ biggest supporter before portraying the traitor who betrays Jesus, Smith said he likes the challenge of portraying these contrasting characters. Equally excited to portray the larger-than-life lead role of Jesus, Griffin said he welcomed the opportunity especially after the cancellation of last year’s musical, Mamma Mia!

“I had never heard of this show before and thought it would be fun to be a part of something unfamiliar,” said Griffin. “I really wanted the role of Jesus because I knew it would challenge me in many ways.”

Also a veteran of song and stage since elementary school, music major, Erin Biglane said she not only enjoys playing the “kind-hearted” Anna Maria, but she also loves how the writers of Godspell recreated the New Testament’s parables. The lively music she said, really compliments the idea of this musical being a modern take on the Gospel.

“The writers did an excellent job of conveying the Gospel with a modern twist. This is very apparent with the well-known song, ‘Day by Day’ my character sings after she decides to follow Jesus,” said Biglane.

Thrilled to be performing again is Kyra Lampley who sees this as her last production. The sophomore, who is involved in four choral groups on campus and is on staff for the student newspaper, The Radionian, Lampley will be focusing on her major, broadcast communications next year.

“I wanted to be a part of this production because it’s most likely my last chance to live out my childhood dreams of becoming a Broadway actress,” said Lampley. “After canceling the show last year, right before opening night, I am going to leave everything on the stage; I am going to give this my all and enjoy every moment!”

Freshman, Isaiah Smith is new to the Jones College stage but with lots of theatrical experience. His last live role was as Pharoah in the play, Joseph, and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat at Laurel Christian School. Playing George, the comedian has been a little more enjoyable he admits.

“I like George because of his nature as the screwball comedian of the group.  His song, ‘Light of the World’ is one of the highlights of the musical that I’m excited to be a part of,” said Smith.

To help ensure the show “goes on,” the Theatre department has collaborated with several departments on the Jones College campus. Students in the Music Industry program are assisting with sound and lighting for the show and JC art instructor, Melanie Eubanks has contributed her art to the opening scene. Commercial and residential maintenance instructor, Josh Ishee and his students have assisted with set construction and Jones graduate, A.J. Robinson is serving as a production assistant and rehearsal pianist.

Performances of Godspell at Jones College are Friday, April 30, and Saturday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. and on Sunday, May 2, at 2:30 p.m. Jones College faculty, staff and students, will be admitted to the live performance on the Student Center Plaza free of charge with a valid Jones ID. CDC Covid-19 protocols, including wearing masks and social distancing will be required.

The public is invited to the virtual performance with the purchase of a ticket for $10 per person. A link to the virtual performance can be found at, or on the Facebook page, Jones College Musical Theatre For more information, please contact JC Theater Director, Dr. Jennifer Bruton at 601-477-2675 or at,

Cast of Godspell

Jesus: Peyton Griffin, Ellisville

John the Baptist/Judas: Conner Smith, Ellisville

Uzo: Kambri Pippin, Laurel

Anna Maria: Erin Biglane, Ellisville

Telly: Jalen Poindexter, Jackson

Lindsay: Peyton King, Sumrall

Morgan: Kyra Lampley, Petal

George: Isaiah Smith, Laurel

Jones College launches Online Workforce College-virtual training

ELLISVILLE- Jones College’s new, Online Workforce College (OWC) has the potential to make the Ellisville institution and the state of Mississippi the workforce training hub for the world. The virtual workforce training developed at Jones is customizable to the business or individual’s needs. It also provides proof of industry-required skills, beyond a high school or college degree. Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith said the OWC is making higher education and workforce training accessible to more people.

“Higher education has to be accessible to everyone because we all need some level of growth or training. Jones can now provide that accessibility for the individual learner and help make our employers more competitive in a global market,” said Smith.

The developer of this unique delivery method of virtual workforce training, Jones College’s Director of Online Workforce College, Dr. Michael Trest said the goal is to bridge the skills gap, by utilizing technology in a cost-effective manner.

“We have 700 different courses in our catalog including employability skills, team building, health and safety and technical competencies. JC’s Online Workforce training is the only entity in the state that can offer OSHA 10 and OSHA 30 online certification. The OWC courses are self-paced and available 24/7 with every course taking about an hour to complete, for only $10,” said Trest.

All of the workforce training courses are aligned with industry standards, by companies who are leaders in their field. J C’s Online Workforce College coordinators work with local businesses to customize training needs for each business or individual. President and CEO of the Mississippi Economic Council, Scott Waller, IOM, said he’s excited about the impact the OWC will have on individuals, businesses and the state’s economy.

“The key for us in Mississippi is to make sure we’re creating opportunities for citizens to learn more skills and the specific skills needed by the companies we have here in the state. We also need to meet the needs of the workforce and create the type of environment from an economic perspective, that allows us to grow jobs, per capita income and really create a successful workforce throughout the state,” said Waller.

Company leaders can access each employee’s training progress and success throughout the process. After each course, a digital badge is earned, displaying the competencies successfully completed, which can also be shared like a digital resume’. Trest said the OWC works for individuals or companies with training needs for one person to 1,000 people in 20 different states, with the ability to train everyone.

“We want the OWC to help you reach your goals, monitor success and training progress,” said Trest to the business and industry representatives at the launch of the OWC. “Now, business and industry employees don’t have to travel to access quality training. A small investment provides access to world-class training at your fingertips,” said Trest.

The state’s 15 community colleges are part of the catalyst that will help change the face of workforce training. A newly created community college consortium will be instrumental in providing OWC training for each community college’s business partners,” said Executive Director of the Mississippi Community College Board, Dr. Angela Mayfield.

“Jones College has done something no one else has ever done before and that is to expand the workforce training toolbox to include online, skills-based training. I am impressed!” said Mayfield. “The partnerships across the state, longtime relationships, coupled with their skills and innovative spirit has resulted in the development of this Online Workforce College. Mississippi companies have another tool designed for them, according to their specifications to be more successful.”

Ultimately, the customizable training through short courses will help close the skills gap between what employers need and the skills citizens have, earning individuals’ credentials that could lead to promotions with the enhanced skills, better safety practices and college degrees. Current content areas include Industrial Training, Manufacturing, Logistics, Employability, Soft-Skills, Workplace Safety, Basic Technology, Networking, IT Security, Coding, and Adult Education, and more. For more information click on the website,