Jones College’s High School Equivalency grads earn Scholarships

ELLISVILLE – Eighty-one students from Jones College’s High School Equivalency program were eligible to participate in a graduation ceremony honoring the classes of 2020 and 2021 with most choosing to participate in the celebration. Held at the Advanced Technology Center in Ellisville, HSE graduates heard an inspiring message from the keynote speaker, Jones County Drug Court Coordinator for the 18th Circuit Court District of Mississippi, Consuelo W. Walley.

“We learn what we’re capable of by going through trials. As Winston Churchill said, ‘Success is not final; failure is not fatal: it is the courage to continue that counts,’” Walley declared.

The graduate of Jones College, the University of Mississippi and Mississippi College School of Law shared with the audience that dreams can change. She emphasized the value of knowledge, which is power. Through our experiences, good and bad, Walley told the crowded auditorium, that we can learn to overcome and rise up when we’re knocked down.

“Tonight, is a stepping-stone in your journey, graduates. Where you go from here is totally within your power to determine. You just have to have the determination to get there. Don’t stop when you fulfill one dream and never, ever stop dreaming. Always be open to changing your plans. Take pride in your journey and look forward to the journey,” said Walley.

Several graduates’ futures will be changing not only because they received their High School Equivalency diploma, but because they also earned a scholarship for their accomplishments. A graduate from each county in Jones College’s eight-county district was awarded a full-tuition scholarship for two semesters. The overall high scoring student from Stonewall, Tabitha Mixon earned the Clarke County Scholarship along with an Academic Distinction Scholarship because of her ACT score. Additionally, because she was the overall high scorer on the HSE, Mixon earned the $500 Jones College Foundation Scholarship.

“I was really excited to earn these scholarships because my family can’t afford tuition!” said Mixon who wants to be a graphic designer/illustrator. “It was also really nice to have my younger brother, David participating in the ceremony with me, and my family here to celebrate too. They didn’t realize I was working so hard and studying to earn these scholarships!”

Mixon wasn’t the only graduate with a sibling sharing this special occasion. Four additional families, Bradey and Amanda Hart of Collins, Garrett and Olivia Clark of Buckatunna and Abbigail and Isaac Davis of Seminary enjoyed graduating together. Another family with three siblings, Jeremiah, Noelle and Sasha Barrow started their HSE at the Greene County Center in Leakesville, with David Clark in 2019. They returned from Gate City, Virginia to participate in graduation ceremonies together with the teacher who supported them from more than five hundred miles away to ensure they earn their High School Equivalency diploma.

“Sasha, the oldest sibling, was upset she didn’t have her HSE before her siblings completed their testing. However, her frustration stemmed more from her issues with dyslexia and ADHD. After testing, we were able to get Sasha special accommodations and she was able to show off her abilities. Then, her father’s job moved the family to Virginia, which didn’t offer the HiSet. After some research, Sasha commuted 25 minutes to a junior college in Tennessee to complete the HiSet and earn her HSE diploma,” Clark explained proudly. “Sasha and Mary Dickerson are the highest-scoring students in my 17 years in adult education. I’m very proud to have also taught Barrow’s mother, Natasha and her two sisters.”

Sasha Barrow is currently enrolled in the CNA program with the goal of becoming a registered nurse. Her brother, Jeremiah aspires to be a business owner and is working on his business degree while managing a restaurant. Their sister, Noelle works at the restaurant her brother manages.

Other HSE graduates who are also on the path to success are County Scholarship recipients, (pictured in order of names listed) Bradley Hart of Collins, who earned the Covington County Scholarship. Leakesville’s Mary Dickerson was awarded the Greene County Scholarship. Amber Windham of Bay Springs received the Jasper County Scholarship. The Jones County Scholarship recipient was Helenia Smith of Laurel. Samuel Menzik of Taylorsville earned the Smith County Scholarship and Justice Pitts of Shubuta received the Wayne County Scholarship.

Also honored during the commencement ceremony were several ACT scholarship recipients: Lydia Davis, Lucedale-Rising Excellence ACT Scholarship; Amanda Gilbert, Pachuta-Academic Distinction ACT Scholarship; Mary Dickerson, Leakesville-Academic Achievement ACT Scholarship; Samuel Menzik, Taylorsville-Rising Excellence ACT Scholarship; Tabitha Mixon, Stonewall-Academic Distinction ACT Scholarship; Helenia Smith, Laurel-Academic Distinction ACT Scholarship; Amber Windham, Bay Springs-Academic Achievement ACT Scholarship.

For more information about the Adult Education Program at Jones College contact, Gwen Matuszewski at 601-477-3125 or email


2020 & 2021 HSE Graduates

Name                 City  

Matthew Adams, Ellisville

Mariano Arellano, Hattiesburg

Noelle Barrow, Lucedale

Jeremiah Barrow, Lucedale

Sasha Barrow, Lucedale

Rikki Brown, Heidelberg

Thomas Bullock, Seminary

Ashley Carlson, Stonewall

Brooklynn Ciessau, Waynesboro

Ashton Clark, Leakesville

Garrett Clark, Buckatunna

Olivia Clark, Buckatunna

Tamika Coleman, Laurel

Tristan Collins, Seminary

Emma Cotton, Ellisville

Elizabeth Crum, Enterprise

Abbigail Davis, Seminary

Isaac Davis, Seminary

Jaylne Davis, Waynesboro

Katlyn Davis, Bay Springs

Lydia Davis, Lucedale

Angel Denson, State Line

Hannah Dickerson, Leakesville

Mary Dickerson, Leakesville

Jessica Duke, Ellisville

Randalyn Dykes, Waynesboro

Candice Finnegan, Enterprise

Linda Foster, Sumrall

Bailey Freeman, Waynesboro

Tonya Gardner, State Line

Amanda Gilbert, Pachuta

Avant Gillispie,  Ellisville

Micheal Gray, Petal

August Hand, Ellisville

Natasha Hargrove, Ellisville

Amanda Hart, Collins

Bradey Hart, Collins

Ethan Hilbun, Laurel

Devin Hill, Petal

Alex Holifield, Ellisville

Jeremiah Holland, Leakesville

Alaina  Hutto, Waynesboro

James Ivy, Enterprise

Ta’Varence Jones, Waynesboro

Aiden Kidwell, Laurel

Makayla Kitchens, Stringer

Chasity Knight, Laurel

Larry Landrum, Mize

Laiken Langley, Ellisville

Dixie Lee, Ovett

McKenzie Lee, Waynesboro

Blake Lowery, Seminary

Paula McAuley, Ellisville

Zachary McLeod, Leakesville

Samuel Menzik, Taylorsville

David Mixon, Stonewall

Tabitha Mixon, Stonewall

Bailey Nicholas, Ellisville

Logan Overstreet, Laurel

Elizabeth Pipkins, Waynesboro

Justice Pitts, Shubuta

Sarah Roberts, Heidelberg

Sofia Ruiz, Laurel

Maricruz Sanchez, Laurel

Seth Schumpert, Soso

Linda Shelby, Bay Springs

Helenia Smith, Laurel

Quendarius Smith, Waynesboro

Shacovia Stevens, Laurel

Waylin Strite, Bay Springs

Harley Taylor, Taylorsville

Darryn Thompson, Richton

Jadin Thrash, Heidelberg

Thomas Tillman, Leakesville

Breana Walker, Lucedale

Dylan Walters, Ellisville

Logan Watkins, Laurel

Shelby Whitehurst, Laurel

Amber Windham, Bay Springs

Dixie Wise, Petal

Dainera Wooten, Bay Springs

National Arthur Ashe Award recipient, Jones College’s Trey Hilton, pursues another calling

ELLISVILLE – Trey Hilton of Pearl not only earned the Region III Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA) Arthur Ashe Leadership & Sportsmanship Award but the Jones College sophomore tennis player was also named the National winner representing all Junior College men while doing something he loves.

“I do the right thing because it’s the right thing to do and to be acknowledged for that is almost inconceivable,” said Hilton. “Receiving the Arthur Ashe Leadership and Sportsmanship Award is a tremendous accomplishment that I never saw coming. So, you can imagine my excitement when I heard I received the national award as well. I was thinking that I’m getting all of this for doing my thing; just being me!”

Trey had to hear the news second-hand because he gave up his chance to play in the national tournament in Tempe, Arizona to answer a “call to duty.” In fact, his father, Troy Hilton said Trey is preparing to be a 4th generation Crew Chief of Chinook helicopters for the Army. Troy called Trey with the news during a break from Army Boot Camp.

“I was overwhelmed with joy for Trey,” said his father, Troy. “I was extremely happy but not completely surprised. Trey has always been a very hard worker. When I told him he won, he had to stop a second because he was in awe. He was like, ‘Wow, I can’t believe it!’ He had spoken so highly of the previous winner, James Williams, his teammate at Jones. For Jones to win back-to-back is a testament to the type of program and values that Coach Brooks Buffinton has instilled in his players.”

Trey shared the journey to follow in his dad and grandfather’s footsteps as Chinook crew chiefs started about a year ago. The plan mapped out to join the Army National Guard was an opportunity that he couldn’t refuse. He planned his time at boot camp and AIT so that they would be consecutive, with the goal to return to Jones College as soon as possible. Sitting out only one semester would be difficult but missing the National Tennis Tournament was also a struggle for the NJCAA All-Academic Second Team and Distinguished Academic All-MACCC honored student-athlete.

“This was my biggest struggle!” said Trey Hilton. “Our tennis team is unlike any team that I have played with before. We are a tight group, but I knew the team would be great with or without my presence. I wish I was there, but we all knew that I needed to be somewhere else; that God had other plans for me.”

Those plans include returning to Jones College in January 2022, to complete his associate degree in Business and play tennis. After pursuing his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in economics at USM, Hilton will be a part of the Army National Guard ROTC before taking a commission from the U.S. Army to helicopter pilot school in Fort Rucker, Alabama. However, he will first learn to be a mechanic on the Chinook helicopter during AIT and then he will be assigned to the National Guard base in Meridian. While there, Hilton will learn how to be the Chinook Crew Chief, just like his grandfather in the Viet Nam war.

“The military is well respected among my family, and I wanted to continue this honorable job. It has also given me insight into what I am capable of doing physically and mentally, who I want to become, what kinds of things I want to do in my life, and what I am willing to do for my fellow man as well as for our country. I want to continue to see the United States as a strong and free country!” said Trey.

His father is very proud of his son’s accomplishments on the tennis court as well as receiving the Regional and National Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship & Leadership awards. However, having served in the Army, Trey’s decision to join the Army is extra special to his father.

“During these changing times, the most selfless thing a person can do is serve their country. Trey has always made me proud, and he continues to do so in his choices,” said Troy Hilton. “I am very fortunate that Trey chose a college that goes beyond what is expected. I appreciate Coach Buffington, the Jones administration, the athletic administration, and everyone for being so accommodating to Trey academically and athletically while he prepares for his military service.”

The Jones College Men’s Tennis Team finished second in the MACCC regular season and in the Region 23 Tournament in May. The Bobcats finished 16th in the NJCAA Division I National Tournament in Plano Texas in June. Trey said winning first place is something he is striving for next year!

La Fiesta Brava owner, Mariano Arellano finds hope and a new career at Jones College

ELLISVILLE – Most know Mariano Arellano in Hattiesburg as the owner of La Fiesta Brava asking on TV, “How about lunch?” Now the 54-year-old is asking, “How about a career?” After serving thousands over the last 26 years, the impact of COVID-19 forced Arellano to sell his restaurant. With more people staying home, paying the bills became overwhelming.

“I never expected to close my business like I did. I was behind in payments, and I didn’t want to put my house at risk,” said Arellano. “I spent half of my life in the restaurant business and now I feel like I lost a member of my family. I feel like I lost everything. I was very depressed.”

But before the doors closed permanently, a customer suggested Arellano should explore some options through Jones College’s Workforce College. Building things always interested the former restauranteur, so after a few phone calls, he was signed up for the welding program.

“When I got to Jones and started taking welding classes and meeting all the employees here, it seemed like every person opened a different door for me. They really helped me get out of my sadness, my depression. Now, I feel like I’m going in the right direction, thanks to everyone because I don’t know if I would have made it without them,” said Arellano.

While learning a new trade through Workforce College, welding instructor, Tracy Warden inspired Arellano to explore even more options. Arellano earned his High School diploma when he lived in Mexico in 1981, but he knew he would need his American High School Equivalency to continue his education here. In one month, Arellano earned his HSE and the Workforce Welding & Heavy Equipment Certificates. He also plans to begin classes in the Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration program in August.

“My life has changed 360 degrees,” said Arellano. “In the restaurant business, it seems like there is always equipment in need of repair. I often did some troubleshooting before calling a repairman. I always wanted to do something else, mechanical or build something. Now, it’s become my new career.”

Arellano is currently working at Smith Welding in Ellisville, as part of the crew building a two-story building structure. He also has new goals on his horizon. In fact, with his Certificate in Workforce Welding & Heavy Equipment, along with his High School Equivalency diploma from Jones College, next year, Arellano said he may open another business after he earns his associate degree in Air Conditioning, Heating and Refrigeration. For more information about Jones College’s Workforce College, click on the link:

A new goal for Jones College’s SGA President equals new opportunities

ELLISVILLE – Soccer is just as much a part of 19-year-old Acacia Rodriguez’s life as breathing. The Clinton resident can’t remember a time when she wasn’t playing the game or kicking a ball. Soccer is also the key to opening the door for her to play for Lady Bobcat Soccer Head Coach, Dolores Deasley, which was not on her radar.

“My goal was to go to the University of West Florida where my high school coach played soccer. Coach Dolores reached out to me my senior year of high school and told me why she thought a JUCO would be right for me,” said Rodriguez. “I knew Coach Dolores was an international player and played for her country of Ireland. She has participated in top-level soccer and I want to do just that. Coach Dolores has the experience and knowledge to get me to the next level.”

The sophomore is well on her way to the “next level.” Rodriguez not only helped the Lady Bobcat Soccer team to a 14-3 record during the 2021 spring season, but she also helped the Bobcats qualify for its first-ever appearance in the NJCAA Division II National Tournament in Evans, Georgia. Her work paid off by being named to the NJCAA Division II All-Tournament Team and the All-MACCC First Team for the season. Rodriguez soon realized Jones College could equally prepare her to be just as successful transferring to the university and discovering other opportunities.

“I came to this campus with an open mind and a willingness to succeed and Jones has provided nothing but opportunities for me to do so,” said Rodriguez, who is majoring in Sports Management with a goal of playing soccer in Hawaii.

Rodriguez’s success on the soccer field should give Jones College students an idea of her ability to multi-task and use her time wisely. When she decided to run for the office of President of the Student Government Association, she knew it would be challenging to juggle her roles as a student-athlete and keep her 4.0 GPA. Rodriguez said she did not originally plan on leading the largest student organization on campus, but she knew she would be capable of organizing and accomplishing different projects for Jones and the community.

“I was a bit shocked that I won the election as Student Government Association President,” Rodriguez confessed. “I signed up for the ballot because I thought it would give me the opportunity to put myself out there. I am very excited, however for the chance to represent the student body and bring some exciting new projects and ideas to the college.”

A few projects the new SGA President wants to incorporate include more healthy living activities like bike races, walk-a-thons, and marathons around the city of Ellisville.

“I also want to bring back the social environment lost because of Covid-19. I would like to orchestrate different activities that would bring students and teachers out of their classrooms and dorms and socialize again,” she said.

Rodriguez was first introduced to Student Council in junior high school. Getting involved in huge projects around the community, allowed her to get to know more people. When she came to Jones College, she knew she wanted to get involved in campus activities on a larger scale. Rodriguez offers this advice for anyone not sure of the best way to succeed in college and life.

“Get out there! Everyone is friendly and ready to accept you with open arms. There is always a way to become involved! Another big thing that helps, treat everyone you meet with respect and that respect will be reciprocated.”

Jones County Drug Court Coordinator, Consuela Walley keynotes Jones College’s High School Equivalency graduation

ELLISVILLE – About 70 graduates of Jones College’s High School Equivalency program from 2020 and 2021 are expected to participate in the commencement ceremony being held on Thursday, July 22, at 7 p.m. in the Whitehead Advanced Technology Center in Ellisville.

A scholarship will be awarded to the top-scoring student in each of Jones College’s eight-county district. Also, the Jones College Foundation Inc. will bestow the overall top-scoring student with an additional scholarship to Jones College.

HSE graduates will hear from the keynote speaker, Jones County Drug Court Coordinator for the 18th Circuit Court District of Mississippi, Consuelo W. Walley. She was appointed to that position in August 2018 by Jones County Circuit Court Judge, Dal Williamson.

Walley is a graduate of Jones College, the University of Mississippi and Mississippi College School of Law. Her undergraduate degree and her law degree include the areas of criminal justice, sociology, constitutional law, criminal law, and procedure.

Previously, Walley had been serving as the director of Dying to Live Ministries, Inc. after volunteering with the ministry for almost 10 years. She has also served as curriculum coordinator and instructor for ZAC House Recovery Center and the Waltman House of Hope in Laurel since 2017.

For more information about JC’s Adult Education programs including the High School Equivalency program and the Out of School Youth Grant, contact Wendy Evans, Director of Integrated Pathways at 601-477-2228 or email