Jones College’s High School Equivalency grads challenged to share their journey  

ELLISVILLE – About 100 students from Jones College’s High School Equivalency program were eligible to participate in a graduation ceremony honoring the class of 2022 with about 70 choosing to participate in the celebration. Held at the Advanced Technology Center in Ellisville, HSE graduates heard an inspiring message from the keynote speaker, a 2022 Jones College graduate and Case Manager for the Forrest/Perry County Drug Court, Shayna Clark of Petal. The 34-year-old wife and mother of two children shared her 15-year journey of addiction and recovery. Homeless and alone, Clark said her life changed when she was arrested and went to prison for the fourth time at the age of 29. For the first time, the arresting officer told Clark, she could do better and there’s a better life for her, which she finally believed.

“He believed I could do it,” Clark explained to the graduates and their guests. “So, I made a deal with myself, if I can graduate drug court, then I’ll enroll in college.”

The Lamar Christian High School graduate attempted college previously and failed. She said those thoughts of failing again almost kept her from trying again. However, she said everyone at Jones College supported her every step.

“I was super nervous but everyone at Jones was there for me, encouraging me, believing in me and celebrating me all along the way,” said Clark.

In April, she celebrated being sober for six years, got married, and bought a house. In May, she was one of two selected to be on the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society All-State Academic Team. Clark also started a non-profit, “Renters to Recovery” to help others like herself overcome the challenges of being homeless and addicted. She challenged the new, HSE graduates, “What’s next for you?” and encouraged them to share their journey with others.

“I’m sure, like me, you’ve had moments where you wanted to quit… and those voices in your head keep telling you I can’t; I’ll never, and it’s too late. But you kept juggling your responsibilities with family and work, and you did it!! You came and you conquered! Every day I want you to relish this moment.”

Clark continued to challenge graduates by continuing to reach for new goals. “I hope all of you know, the sky is the limit. Don’t let this graduation be the end. Let it be the beginning of something new and exciting in your life. There will only be one you in this whole world, so please let your light shine bright. Always be learning and growing, onward and upward. And go out and share your story with other people. You never know what kind of wildfire you may light in someone just by sharing.”

Annie Wester and Perry County HSE instructor, David Clark.

For several graduates, like Annie Wester of Richton, and Penelope Davis of Waynesboro, the Covid-19 pandemic, along with other “life” issues interrupted their education and their dreams. However, their determination to get their high school education helped them to also earn an ACT scholarship at Jones College for having the top ACT score in their home county.

“I’m really happy for getting another chance to get my education and pursue my dream of becoming an orthodontist,” said Wester, who dropped out halfway through her junior year of high school. However, the HSE program at Jones has enabled Wester to graduate ahead of her class. “If you told me my sophomore year, I would be a HSE graduate I would have been shocked. I didn’t see myself getting this far. Now, I’m really excited about meeting new people and living on campus this fall.”

Penelope Davis and Wayne County HSE instructor, Carla Manning.

Sixteen-year-old Penelope Davis and her 18-year-old sister, Chloe decided to drop out of high school because their grandmother was at high risk for Covid. After home schooling for a while, they decided to come to Jones College’s HSE program to earn their diplomas. Now, Chloe plans to become a cosmetologist while Penelope has decided to major in radiology.

“This is a step in the right direction,” said Penelope. “Because of Covid we missed a lot but going to Jones has helped, especially finding friends here.”

Alexis Britain and Sarah Howell before HSE graduation.

Taking a different route, Alexis Britain of Stonewall said she plans to enter the workforce now with her welding certificate. “I’ve always been interested in doing things typically done by men. As a little girl, I loved watching my papaw who worked for a wrecker company,” said Britain.

Earning an Academic Achievement scholarship at Jones College, Jonathan Musgrave of Sandersville said he’s excited about becoming a first responder. “I’m very happy to get the scholarship because I didn’t think I did that well on my ACT, but I am glad it will pay for me to become an EMT/Paramedic.”

Director of Integrated Pathways (Adult Education) Wendy Evans said more than $50,000 in scholarships were awarded to the HSE graduates because of their academic achievements. Each county’s highest scoring student earned a full tuition scholarship for two semesters at Jones College and more than $20,700 was awarded in ACT scholarships. The overall high scoring student, Sylvia Leonard of Bay Springs, earned the Jasper County Scholarship and the $500 Jones College Foundation Scholarship.

Sylvia Leonard, Overall and Jasper County Highest Scorer Scholar

“I’m so excited I don’t have to pay for college!” said the former resident of Ohio. Leonard explained her mother moved to Mississippi for a job, which didn’t allow her to finish her senior year of high school. “Earning the HSE diploma was a lot more difficult because I only had two more classes to finish in Ohio. However, I am excited about this scholarship opportunity! I wasn’t expecting to be the overall high scorer!”

The Clarke County highest scoring student was elementary education major, Heather Thomas of Stonewall. Covington County’s highest scoring student was Anna Grace Ellis. Greene County’s Makenzie Parnell and Perry County’s Annie Wester scored the highest in their respective county’s. Celina Russell was Smith County’s highest scoring student and Wayne County’s Penelope Davis earned her county’s top spot. Collin Jones of Soso was the Jones County highest scoring student scholarship recipient.

Earning the Rising Excellence Scholarship with $1500 over four semesters at Jones College are Erin Hutto of Waynesboro, Emily Brownlee of Moselle, Sunny Sokol of Moselle, Gavin Hicks of Leakesville, and Selena Russell of Louin.

Jonathan Musgrave receives HSE diploma from JC President, Dr. Jesse Smith.

Four students, Jonathan Musgrave of Sandersville, Makenzie Parnell of Leakesville, Penelope Davis of Waynesboro, and Annie Wester of Richton, earned the Academic Achievement Scholarship, receiving $3300 over four semesters.


Mercedes Alexis Allen, Sandersville

Keldrin Blackston, McLain

Mary Caitlyn Victoria Brewer, Waynesboro

Alexis Taylor Britain, Stonewall

Emily Austen Brownlee, Moselle

Wyatt Cole Bullock, Ovett

Kelsie Nicole Callender, Waynesboro

Caleb Aaron Camp, Ovett

James Alton Carr, Ellisville

Daleree Mayne Clark, Leakesville

Carley Elizabeth Cleaver, Buckatunna

Cassidy Louise Cooper, Ellisville

Landon Thomas Coulter, Ellisville

Chloe Serene Davis, Waynesboro

Penelope Ann Davis, Waynesboro

Mallory Blaire Downs, Enterprise

Anna Grace Ellis, Collins

Mya Rose Gagnon, Leakesville

Maria Isabel Garcia, Ellisville

Joana Manni Garcia, Laurel

Alyssa Caroline Giovengo, Laurel

Jacob Paul Hamby, Ovett

Christian Eli Hammonds, Lucedale

Kadence Jolee Henson, Waynesboro

Arely Anet Hernandez, Waynesboro

Cameron Nathaniel Herrington, Laurel

Gavin Brody Hicks, Leakesville

Sarah Leslie Howell, Enterprise

Erin Nicole Hutto, Waynesboro

Collin Alexander Jones, Soso

Sylvia Mae Leonard, Bay Springs

Elizabeth Nicole Limerick Guy, Laurel

Landyn Kel Longmire, Leakesville

Alexia Victoria Lott, Beaumont

Samuel Wesson Lott, Ovett

Samantha Rose McCarty, Leakesville

Baylee Morgan McCool, Bay Springs

Lynzee Alishea McDonald, Lucedale

Omari  Ta’Zyron McGill, Taylorsville

Jordan Christina Moore, Ellisville

Clifton Bernard Moss, Laurel

Jonathan Glenn Musgrave, Sandersville

Phillip Jeral Nicholson, Richton

Makenzie Skye Parnell, Leakesville

Ashton Taylor, Laurel

Dawson Reece Reynolds, Ellisville

Makayla Lauren Roberts, Lucedale

Millicent Annanelle Rogers, McLain

Celina Jean Russell, Louin

Jaden Israel Santos, Laurel

Gracie N Siniard, Hattiesburg

Cambre Grace Smith, Ellisville

Preston Thomas Smith, Petal

Sunny Rochelle Sokol , Moselle

Jonathan Cole Strickland, Laurel

Abriegail Michelle Taylor, Laurel

Heather Kay Thomas, Stonewall

Houston Edward Tillman, Leakesville

Kimberly Michelle Trudeau, Ellisville

Ouida Cheyanne Waites, Waynesboro

Layton Chance Walley, Richton

Annie Marie Wester, Richton

Kaydence Zellene Wilde, Laurel

Angie Worsham, Buckatunna

Jones College keynote speaker hopes to inspire HSE grads with “Second Chances” story, by Kelly Atwood

Jones College 2022 graduate and Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society’s All-Mississippi Academic Second Team winner, Shayna “Shay” Clark of Petal will be the guest speaker for the High School Equivalency (HSE) graduation ceremony. Clark, who has an inspiring personal story of overcoming addiction, will share her encouraging words during the commencement ceremony for about 100 HSE graduates at the Whitehead Advanced Technology Center in Ellisville, on Thursday, July 21, at 7 p.m.

Clark struggled with addiction for 15 years, beginning when she was a teenager. From the time she was in second grade, her mother battled cancer, succumbing to it in Shay’s senior year.

“I was hurting, but I didn’t know how to say I was hurting,” she said. “It felt selfish because my mom was sick.” One day, she tried drugs. “Instantly, I felt relief,” she said. “When it wore off, I needed more and more, and it kind of escalated from there.”

That escalation included several times in jail and four times in prison. Despite her arrests, she continued to use drugs to numb the pain she felt she couldn’t handle then.

When her father first discovered her drug use, he tried to get her counseling, but she was a rebellious teen who refused to participate. Her addiction estranged her from her father, who died of a heart attack a few years later, which only increased her pain.

A graduate of Lamar Christian School, she was awarded a full tuition scholarship to MSU, but this was the fall that Hurricane Katrina hit. Two months after the natural disaster upended the lives of many, her life was upended as well when she went to prison for the first time at the age of 18. Through the years, she would get cleaned up for brief stints and enroll in college, thinking college “would fix” her. After attending class a few times, she wouldn’t return, always falling back into the vicious cycle of addiction.

All that changed the day she became involved in Drug Court. Specifically designed for people with substance abuse problems, these courts allow participants to enter long-term drug treatment while agreeing to court supervision. Members are expected to maintain recovery while working on lifestyle changes, with progress monitored by the court.

Clark is shown with her daughter after four years of sobriety. Top right, different photos taken when Clark was in addiction.

She said the Drug Court saw something in her that she couldn’t see in herself, and it was the first time that people had tried to help her. She was involved in the program for three years, and this is when she received counseling, something she’d never had before. She began the recovery process, and when she graduated from Drug Court, she enrolled the following semester at Jones, determined to get her degree.

“From the first phone call, everyone at Jones encouraged me and made it so doable,” she said.

When she started Jones, she was already working in the mental health field. After one year of sobriety, which is one of the pre-requisites for the job, she became a Peer Support Specialist at Clearview Recovery Center. She was the first person hired for the position at the center. Working at a treatment center helping people work on recovery helped her, too.

“Whenever I go through something hard, I remind myself that this is going to help someone,” she said. “It’s comforting to others when someone has gone through the same thing. That’s what’s so powerful about peer support because we’ve felt the same thing.”

In this role, the specialists share their personal stories with others through lectures and support groups. People in this role can receive certification through the Department of Mental Health. She later became a Clinical Assistant, and now she serves as a Case Manager for the Forrest/Perry County Drug Court. She plans on earning a bachelor’s in social work from USM, where she will start in the fall. She hopes to one day earn her masters as well.

While working in these roles, she attended Jones online classes, graduating this past May. Although not seeing her instructors for face-to-face classes, she said they all made an impact.

“My advisor, Stacy Ruth, was very helpful in navigating course schedules, and she was also my teacher a few times. I remember in one of our advisement appointments she called me ‘The Bomb Dot Com,’ which I remind my teenage step son of regularly when he gets embarrassed of me in public,” she said. “The amazing Eric Shows, PTK advisor who nominated me for the All-State Academic Award and believes in me and my story…

“Sarah Ishee, who helped my middle-aged mom-brain actually be able to retain history information (something I thought was impossible!!). Ms. (Missie) Meeks helped me to become a better writer, and Mr. (John) Burks helped me to better organize my thoughts and challenged my fears of speaking in public. Mrs. (Kathryn) Davis gave me interesting assignments in my social work classes that really made me think about things I have been through personally in a different light.

“I really could go on and on. Each and every teacher I had was special, and they really helped me to grow and learn,” she said.

An avid AA member, she talked of the 12 steps and used herself as an example. “I am just as capable as everyone else, but I have no power against this one thing, so I have to give it to a higher power,” she said. Staying involved in AA helps her to remain humble, help others, and seek God daily.

“When I get small, then God can get really big,” she said. “I want to see that power. I would not be anywhere close to here without Him.”

Last month, she started her nonprofit called Renters for Recovery. The idea was sparked when she saw people with nowhere to go once they finished their time at a treatment facility. The plan is to rent properties where people in recovery can go after treatment, similar to group homes. Everyone will receive counseling once a week in the home, and renters will receive two counseling sessions a month, which will be included in the rent.

Her ultimate goal with the nonprofit would include “apartments where whole families can be together, where they can work to get their kids back, and everyone can receive counseling.”

This isn’t her first time helping others in an innovative way. When she entered Clearview as a patient, she came with nothing, but while there, she received all the resources she needed. This inspired her to start a donation closet at the facility where people who come with nothing can receive clothes, toiletries, and other helpful items. The Fresh Start Donation Closet was just the beginning of her call to help others.

There was a time when people automatically associated drug users as bad people, but progress is being made on how we look at addiction, she explained.

“With mental health counselors, trauma-informed care, and crisis intervention counselors, we can have a helping attitude instead of a punishing attitude,” she said.

People having that helpful attitude really made the difference in her recovery. She saw Drug Court Judge Helfrich as a father figure, partly because he resembled her father, but also because he was personable and accepting of her, hugging her when she made progress, officiating her marriage, and meeting her two-week-old baby.

She can look back at her time when she entered drug court and see the accomplishments she’s made today. She’s been clean for six years. She’s mended once-broken relationships and joined a church. In 2018, she married her best friend, also in recovery. They have a 3-year-old daughter together named Adalee, and she also has a teen stepson with her husband. The couple, who each at one time was homeless, bought their first house this past December. She has a rewarding job, an AA degree, and academic accolades.

“I’m really, really grateful for that second chance,” she said. “I’d really thought I’d blown it. It’s neat to be on the other side of Drug Court and watch people growing.”

Shay said when she shares her story with the HSE graduates, she hopes they realize how important getting a second chance at life really is and to take full advantage.

“I want to encourage the graduates to challenge the negative voices they have encountered in their past, internally and externally,” she said. “(Her story can help the graduates) see that change is possible for anyone, no matter what we have gone through. If I can do it, ANYONE can! I want them to know that it is never too late to chase your dreams, that they are stronger than they may realize. There is no limit to what they can do, and the first step is believing that fact.”

Jones College expands its agricultural roots with state’s first Livestock Show Team  

ELLISVILLE –Agricultural science courses have always been a part of the curriculum and lifestyle at Jones College since Jones County Agricultural High School was established in 1911. Now, the two-year college is expanding its agricultural roots with the creation of the state’s first, Livestock Show Team. Six Jones College students, Karley Cotton of Heidelberg, Lilli Dixon of Smithdale, Bri Fenton of Ellisville, Hayden Kilgore of Taylorsville, Faith Sullivan of Mize and Tucker Woods of Seminary, are the first members of the newly formed Livestock Show Team at Jones College.

“I’m ready for the new challenge and to widen my knowledge on a different breed of cattle,” said Karley Cotton. She began helping on a neighbor’s farm at the age of 11, showing Black Angus cattle. Enjoying the opportunity, her parents launched out on their own buying Simmental cattle for Karley to show. In 2021, she earned the title of Mississippi Junior Simmental Association Queen and a 2022-23 tuition scholarship to be on the Jones College Livestock Show Team.

Her story is like most of the members of the JC Livestock Show Team who all have been raising cows since they were at least eight years old. As Animal Science and/or Agricultural Science majors, they are preparing for a career in the agricultural industry. Now more than ever, Jones College Agriculture Science instructor and advisor for the Livestock Show Team, Leanne Kilgore, said the role of agriculture is very important in our daily lives. Educating the public on the role of farmers has really become a vital priority.

“Generally, the public is so far removed from agriculture; two or three generations removed from farm experiences. They don’t have any idea where their food sources are coming from. We need to do a better job of being the voice of agriculture and promoting our farmers,” said Kilgore.

Adding the Livestock Show Team for Jones College students already invested in the agricultural lifestyle provides more opportunities to continue competing, expanding their knowledge, and developing an ag science network for their futures. The six-member team will care for the daily needs of four Red Angus heifers and compete throughout the state and region. Plans also include a trip to Oklahoma City for the annual Cattlemen’s Congress in January.

“The students on this team have a tremendous amount of responsibility,” said Jones College’s Farm and Cattle Manger, Jason Mills. “They will live on campus and the animals will be their responsibility, even on holidays. They will wash, feed and care for the animals’ daily needs, even when school is closed.”

Freshman, Faith Sullivan of Mize said she enjoys having the opportunity and responsibilities that come with being in the “ring” again. The criminal justice major has been showing cattle since she was 11 years old through 4-H and the Future Farmers of America (FFA). She’s won numerous Sale of Champions awards and agriculture accomplishments, including the title of Watermelon Teen Queen 2020. Sullivan said she may change her major to animal science now that she is on the JC Livestock Show Team.

“I thought I was done showing after Dixie Nationals this year, but I’ve always been interested in investigating; I want to know why things happen and why people do the things they do. I could do farm investigating of stolen animals with my agriculture background. Regardless, I’m just excited to be on the team at Jones,” said Sullivan.

For Bri Fenton of Fenton Farms in Ellisville, her goal is to take over and expand the family business. Being on the team is just another way to reach that goal. She has been raising Simmentals for the family’s cow/calf program and training horses since she was nine-years old.

“I’ve always enjoyed showing cattle, traveling and meeting new people. I really like to venture out and see what all there is because there’s always something new to learn,” said Fenton. “It was really exciting in Oklahoma recently, meeting all the big name people.”

Lilli Dixon of Smithdale, the former president of the Mississippi Junior Red Angus Association and Dixie National Sale of Junior Champions winner, said she loves the idea of establishing a new gateway for college students to continue to work in agriculture.

“I would like us to be something people see and say, ‘Wow! That’s awesome and I want to be a part of it!’ They can look at us at Jones College and see agriculture can be fun, you can learn a lot, and it can offer you new experiences,” said Dixon.

The barn and related facilities for the Livestock Show Team are currently under construction. However, that will not delay training and preparations for the newly established team that is ready to show off Jones College’s newest agriculture programs. The college is also preparing to re-establish the Livestock Judging Team and establish a Rodeo Team in the next five years.

Livestock Show Team Advisor, Leanne Kilgore (right) with team members pictured left to right, Faith Sullivan, Bri Fenton, Karley Cotton and Lilli Dixon along with Hayden Kilgore and Tucker Woods who are not pictured.

Jones College offers new Diesel Equipment Technology program

ELLISVILLE – The new Diesel Equipment Technology program will now be offered at Jones College beginning fall of 2022. The Diesel Equipment Technology Program offers instruction and hands-on experience providing students with the competencies required to maintain and repair a variety of industrial diesel equipment, commercial trucks and construction equipment. Assistant Dean of the College of Agriculture & Industrial Services, Barry Bradshaw explained every heavy diesel repair shop needs someone with credentials to perform warranty repairs, which is one reason Jones College has added the Diesel Equipment Technology Program.

“Industry demand is very high for this type of repair program,” said Bradshaw. “There are five, local heavy diesel shops where students could seek employment. There are also countless shops within the state and nationwide.”

The new Diesel Technology Program will cover large diesel engines in the transportation industry. However, students will primarily work on, but they will not be limited to working on over the road truck engines.

Bradshaw said, “Plans include maintaining the college’s tractor trailers from the Commercial Truck Driving program to give the students an opportunity to work on real world applications. Of course, the Diesel Technology Program will also offset some of the repair and maintenance costs for the Commercial Truck Driving program.”

Students can earn a Technical Certificate or an Associate in Applied Science degree at the successful completion of this new Diesel Technology Program on the Ellisville campus.  Additionally, Jones College also offers the Light Duty Diesel Program which applies to diesel engines in automotive applications. Teaching the new diesel repair program will be Brad Ellzey, who has shop foreman experience at Burroughs Diesel and Kirk Sharplin who owns a business refurbishing large trucks.

For more information check out the website

Jones College Campus Police Chief signs off for retirement

ELLISVILLE – After serving the Pine Belt as a law enforcement officer for the last 28 years, Jones College Campus Police Chief, Stan Livingston signed off for the last time on June 30, 2022. The Jones College campus police department and the Student Affairs Office coordinated a special color guard flag ceremony witnessed by friends, family and fellow officers before Chief Livingston signed off on his radio for the last time, connected to the Jones County dispatch for all his fellow officers to hear.

“It was bittersweet,” said Chief Livingston. “I’m blessed to be at this point in my life and I’m blessed to be around good people at Jones, and all through my career. I just hope I’ve reached some people and made a difference.”

Livingston served the college for 12 years but his prior service in law enforcement includes working for the Laurel and Hattiesburg police departments, the Jones County Sheriff’s Office, and the Jones County School System as South Jones High School’s Resource Officer. Additionally, he served in the U.S. Army Airborne Division, National Guard 624th QuarterMaster Co. and was honorably discharged in 1995. While serving in the Army, Livingston earned the 1992 Adjutant General Military Leadership Award and the 1991 Army Achievement Medal-Leadership Award.

“After serving in the military, his dream was to be a police officer,” explained Livingston’s wife, Tina, who also works at Jones College. “We had three young children, a new house, two vehicles and with God’s support, he did it! Our kids never went without. They didn’t always have everything they wanted but we always had what we needed. We are very proud of him!”

Tina Livingston shared, the family is also very grateful Stan was able to leave the job he loves in good physical shape. Knowing he risked his life daily for others, she shared, was something he loved doing.

“He worked long hours and sometimes 24/7 when he worked in narcotics. I’m not going to say it wasn’t hard on us, but he always made it work. He has lots of stories to tell and accomplishments,” said Tina Livingston.

Some of those accolades include being the 2015 Jones College Administrator of the Year Award. In law enforcement, he earned the 2006 Bill Robinson Award – Sportsmanship Award/Dog Detector K-9 Trials, the 2005 Laurel Police Department Officer of the Year Award, the 2004 National USPCA Team Competition-4th in the nation, the 2004 Jones County Sheriff’s Deputy of the Year Award, 2003 USPCA Canine Sportsmanship Award and the 1999 Hattiesburg Police Department Academy Leadership Award/Top of Class.

“He did his part in law enforcement and in the military,” said JC campus police officer, Kim Stewart. “He paid his dues and now he gets to sit back and enjoy life. We’re going to witness him being able to retire, walk away in good health with his family. That’s important to me.”

His Jones College colleagues gave him several retirement gifts to enjoy in his off time. However, the retired chief of campus police said his wife gave him a long list of “Honey Do’s” to keep him busy in between his fishing and hunting trips.