Jones College announces Homecoming Court 2023

ELLISVILLE – Homecoming on the campus of Jones College in Ellisville will be a celebration of the theme, “IAMJC! Let the Good Times Roll!” Numerous activities, reunions and gatherings are scheduled before the culmination of Homecoming celebrations on Saturday, October 28, 2023. During halftime of the football game, Queen Aliyah Watts of Foxworth, and the entire JC student-elected, 2023 Homecoming Court will be presented. Escorting the ladies will be a Jones College student selected by the student representatives.

Queen, Aliyah Watts of Foxworth is majoring in Psychology. The Jones College sophomore attended West Marion High School and finished high school at the Mississippi School for the Arts in Brookhaven. She participated in the high school choir and color guard, earning the role of captain her sophomore year. As a member of show choir, Aliyah received the “Best Performer Award” in 2018 and she was the V.P. of SGA and a Diversity Club member. At Jones College, Aliyah was elected V.P. of the Student Government Association and V.P. of Fellowship for Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. She is a Worship Team member for the Baptist Student Union and she performs with the Jones OnStage show choir, Collegiate Choir and Concert Choir. Additionally, Watts was a Freshman Homecoming Maid last year and she is a member of the Charles Pickering Honors Institute and recipient of the Letter “J” Award. After graduation this May, Aliyah plans to continue her educational journey at William Carey University and eventually earn her Ph.D. in Psychology with a minor in Criminal Justice for a career as a forensic psychologist. Her parents are Tamara Pittman and Chris Watts.

“Thank you, Jones College for allowing me to be your Homecoming Queen! Thank you to my family and friends for always encouraging me to pursue my dreams and for all your encouragement and prayers,” said Watts.

Seth Walker of Laurel will be escorting Watts at Homecoming. At West Jones High School, he was involved in show choir and theater, in addition to various clubs like Beta Club, Key Club and Student Council. Graduating with a Distinguished Academic Honor’s diploma and a 4.0 GPA, Walker also earned Hall of Fame honors. At Jones, Seth is majoring in journalism and is a member of the yearbook. He was also the V.P. of the Freshman Class and performs with the Concert Choir and Jones OnStage. In addition, he is a member of the SGA, BSU, FCA and PTK. His future plans include graduating in December and moving to North Carolina to intern at Elevation Church before pursuing a bachelor’s degree in theology at Liberty University. His parents are Scott and Suzie Walker.

Bailie Bishop of Laurel is your Student Body Maid. The West Jones High School graduate is a sports marketing major, with a minor in pre-law. The former Mustang was a member of several organizations including the National Beta Club, Student Council, Mu Alpha Theta and Kiwanis Club. At Jones College, she is a member of the Touch of Gold and Gold Rush dance teams, Bobcat Brigade, FBLA, FCA, Philosophy Club and SGA. Bailie is also the Chief Editor of the Bobcat Broadcast and the Bobcat Podcast. Her future plans include graduating from the University of Southern Mississippi, intern for the athletics program and eventually work at ESPN, with the end goal of starting her own sports agency, serving as an agent for professional athletes. Bailie’s parents are Josh and Brandi Ezell.

Escorting Bishop will be Kadin Johnston of Waynesboro, who is majoring in pre-physical therapy. The Wayne Academy 2022 Salutatorian was busy in high school playing football and baseball and received the Jaguar Award. He is the PTK President at Jones College in addition to being a member of the Bobcat Brigade student ambassadors, the Charles Pickering Honors Institute, SGA, FCA, Philosophy Club and participates in Intramurals. After earning a bachelor’s degree in kinesiology, Johnston wants to earn his doctorate degree in physical therapy and open his own practice. His parents are Judd and Teresa Johnston.

Jessica Manning of Quitman is your Sophomore Maid. Majoring in music education, Jessica has been a member of the Mississippi All-State Lions Band in high school and was involved in Beta Club. She was recognized as a Mississippi Scholar, National Honors Society member, and John Phillip Sousa Award Winner. Also, Jessica won the talent competition as a Distinguished Young Woman competition. For the last two years, Manning has been a drum major for the Maroon Typhoon Marching Band, a member of PTK Honor Society and on the Fellowship of Christian Athletes Leadership Team. Her future plans include earning her bachelor’s and doctorate degrees in music education at William Carey University with the goal of becoming a college band director. Manning’s parents are Douglas and Carla Manning.

Ethan Noffke of Seminary will be escorting Manning at Homecoming. The Seminary Attendance Center graduate was a member of the Bulldog Marching Band, serving as Trumpet Captain and earning the John Philip Sousa Award. The Networking/Programming major at Jones is a member of the Maroon Typhoon Marching Band and is the captain of the trumpet section. He hopes to earn a computer engineering/cybersecurity degree at the University of Alabama in Huntsville and work for Raytheon or BlueTalon software company. His parents are Jeremy Noffke and Miriam Sanford.

Sophomore Maid, Halle Myrick is from Petal and is a Health-Related Professions major. In high school, Halle was a member of the Petal High School tennis team and participated in the Beauty and Beau Pageant. The Mississippi High School Activities Association Scholar Athlete graduated with Honors and has been on the President’s List Honor Roll at Jones College. She has also participated in the Jones College Most Beautiful Pageant and is a member of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society. Her future plans include becoming a cardiac and vascular sonographer after graduating from the Cardiac and Vascular Institute of Ultrasound in Mobile, Alabama. Myrick’s parents are Shawn and Angela Myrick.

Her escort will be Braxton Thompson of Richton. The electro-mechanical technology major played football at Richton High School. Braxton is a member of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Baptist Student Union at Jones College. He has also earned Dean’s List Honor Roll accolades. Thompson’s future plans include continuing his education at Mississippi State University and becoming an electromechanical technician. Braxton’s parents are Joel Thompson and Susan Jenkins.

Freshman Maid, Mary Taylor Jones lives in Collins and plans to major in business and marketing when she transfers to Mississippi State University. At Prentiss Christian High School, she was voted Homecoming Queen and Miss Prentiss Christian. Mary Taylor was also a member of the Honor Society, Spanish Honor Society, Cheer Captain, and she was a member of the PCHS Hall of Fame. At Jones College, she is a member of the Student Government Association and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Andy and Deanna Jones are Mary Taylor’s parents.

Escorting Jones will be Haydyn Pickering of Waynesboro. The graduate of Wayne Academy played football and baseball. Graduating with Honors, he was also a member of the Honor Society and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. Haydyn is a member of the First Baptist Church of Waynesboro and is an active member of the Youth Group. After graduating from Jones College, Pickering plans to attend Mississippi State University. His parents are Tal and Tracy Pickering of Collins and Ricky and Amy Pittman of Waynesboro.

Markecia Lloyd is your Freshman Maid from Brandon, and she is majoring in radiology. The Pisgah High School graduate was a member of the Beta Club, the Basketball Team and was a member of the National Honors Society. Markecia earned an ACT Scholarship at Jones College. She plans to earn a bachelor’s degree in radiology and then become a diagnostic medical sonographer, specializing in obstetrics and gynecology. Her parents are Allen and Monica Williams.

La’Marcus Miller of McComb will be escorting Lloyd. The business major from McComb played baseball and football while at McComb High School. At Jones College, La’Marcus is a member of the Future Business Leaders of America. His future plans include being a successful businessman. His parents are Marcus Miller and Brandi Everett.

The Homecoming Court will also feature the Flower Girl, five-year-old Norah Smith, the daughter of Caleb and Erin Smith of Ellisville. The Crown Bearer is five-year-old Jase Williams, the son of Cory and Jamie Williams of Laurel. 

Freshman Maid-Mary Taylor Jones; Sophomore Maid-Jessica Manning of Quitman; Student Body Maid-Bailie Bishop of Laurel; Queen-Aliyah Watts of Foxworth; Sophomore Maid-Halle Myrick of Petal and
Freshman Maid-Markecia Lloyd of Brandon.

Jones College hosts annual Fall Blood Drive

ELLISVILLE – Jones College’s annual Fall Blood Drive was off to a great start on Monday, with Vitalant’s Mobile unit parked outside the Industrial Services Center on the Ellisville campus. Almost 20 donors stopped by, like Commercial Truck Driving instructor, Billy Miller to donate on the first of the three day blood drive.

“I usually give blood plasma, but I didn’t have time today to do that, so I decided to give whole blood today,” said Miller, who has donated for the last nine years he has worked at Jones College. “My A-B positive blood is usually ideal for plasma donations, but I didn’t have the hour or more it requires to make that kind of donation. I really like to give plasma at the children’s hospital because of the need there.”  

Ironically, freshman JC student, Krista Adamick from Oak Grove has given plasma before, but her mother encouraged her to donate today for the first time.

“There’s a blood shortage so my mom said it’s very important to give today. I also earned volunteer hours today!” said the radiology major.  

Even 74-year-old Laurel resident, Lesley Johnson made his way to Ellisville to participate in the annual Fall Blood Drive. Regularly giving for the last 15 or more years, Johnson decided to donate today instead of waiting for his usual donation site at the Cameron Center in Laurel.

Vitalant will continue its blood donation drive Tuesday and Wednesday at the D.O. Thoms Physical Education Building Gymnasium from 9 a.m. until 2 p.m. in an effort to reach the overall goal for the three-days of 105 units of blood. To encourage donations, T-shirts will be given to all donors and Door Prizes will be available all three days for donors during random drawings. The public, as well as the JC community is invited to participate by making an appointment on the Vitalant website,

Artist shares insight on abstract work with Jones College students

ELLISVILLE – After displaying her artwork in the Jones College Eula Bass Lewis Art Gallery for the last month, Hattiesburg artist, Bethanie Wilson shared her insights on the creation of her large abstract oil paintings with aspiring artists at Jones College. During her “Art Talk,” Wilson explained she liked using large canvases because colors are enhanced, and the size of the work can almost overwhelm or envelope the viewer.

“I want my artwork to be intense which is one of the reasons why I intentionally concentrated the heavy and powerful section of my painting ‘Elohim’ at eye level; that’s where you’re going to focus. To get a different perspective while creating this piece, I incorporated my whole body into creating it because I moved it off the wall and painted on the floor. It not only changed my perspective, but it also gave me more control, being able to extend my arms more on a larger scale,” said Wilson.

Jones College freshman art major, Halla Lower from Laurel said she was very excited to hear from an artist with a similar style to hers and who is also an art teacher at William Carey University.

“I’ve been trying to dive into abstract and this was really a good experience to hear from Ms. Wilson. Being able to look at her art and how it changed my mood, is really life changing,” shared Lower. “I gravitated to this one, ‘Poetry in Chaos’ because I really liked the color scheme she stuck with, and it still works all together.”

Lower said she’s interested in digital art like Wilson, who explained how being a graphic artist influenced her oil painting and helped her work on a larger scale.

For more information about upcoming JC art shows or to arrange a visit to the gallery call 601-477-8401. The Eula Bass Lewis Art Gallery is open Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday from 8 a.m. until 3 p.m., and by appointment only on Wednesdays. The gallery is closed during the holidays. If you want to know more about the Jones College Art Department, or the JC Art Department’s social media: Facebook page, and on Instagram @artatjonescollege.

Distinguished Laurel City Clerk & Jones College alumna leads internationally

ELLISVILLE – While Jones College may have laid a foundation for Mary Ann Hess’ professional success as the Laurel City Clerk, her abilities since graduating in 1985 have distinguished her uniquely amongst her peers. She is the only Mississippian to receive two honors, The Quill Award and the Athenian Award, through the International Institute of Municipal Clerks (IIMC), in addition to being elected President of the IIMC. No other Mississippian has achieved any one of these accomplishments or leadership positions in the city or state’s history.

“It is a huge honor to represent Laurel and Mississippi, as well as the United States on a world-wide stage. Whenever, I mention the show ‘Hometown,’ it becomes a good icebreaker because so many people have heard and seen the show. The Laurel City Council and Mayor are very generous to let me go and represent the city.”

Although Hess’s duties are finance related, her first love is education. She gets to enjoy that passion through her work with the IIMC. This professional organization is dedicated to promoting the work of municipal clerks with over 15,000 members worldwide in 15 countries. From 2014 to 2017, Hess served as the IIMC’s Region IV Director, representing Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Texas. In 2020, Hess was awarded the organization’s highest honor, the Quill Award.

“Only three clerks can be chosen each year for the award. However, if the panel does not believe any of the applicants are deserving, no one will receive it,” Hess explained. “Hess and one other person were awarded this top honor for their contributions to the profession and their work as a municipal clerk and their efforts to improve their communities.”

With her mother, Reba Hess who is also a JCJC graduate and her brother, Michael, beside her in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Mary Ann was officially sworn in as President of the IIMC at the 77th Annual Conference last May. Before becoming president, she had to get elected Vice President.

She began her international campaign via zoom and email, in the fall of 2020 through the spring of 2021, during COVID.  Hess was elected in April 2021, beating out a clerk from Texas, and Illinois. She was sworn in as President-Elect at the 2022, IIMC Annual Conference in Little Rock. Being selected to run an organization of this magnitude is a challenge Hess enjoys. However, she also has very noble reasons why she is devoted to supporting her peers.

“The reason I ran for President was to help municipal clerks all over the world to obtain the education that they need to do their jobs. This year I will preside over a Board of Directors that does both – set education policy and provide educational opportunities, both in-person and online learning.”

So far, Hess has attended two state conferences and one provincial (Ontario) conference since May with plans to attend an Officer’s Forum in Vancouver, British Columbia. She has also been to Wisconsin in August, and in October, she will be in Murfreesboro, Tennessee speaking to Clerks. Hess will also be visiting the IIMC Headquarters located in Rancho Cucamonga, California for Executive Committee meetings in September and then, preside over the Mid-Year Board meeting in Orlando in November, in preparation for the IIMC Annual Conference held in Calgary, Alberta, May 2024.

Larry & Mary Ann Hess

“After I attend a conference, I write my article for our News Digest and for my blog on the website. In my articles, I include things that I thought were good or interesting, so that we can all learn from each other.”

Her parents, Larry and Reba Hess who worked at Jones College for years, may have been instrumental in their daughter’s love of learning. Mr. Hess was a physics instructor for 33 years before retiring in 2000, and her mother Reba, worked in the Registrar’s Office for 20 years. Mary Ann’s grandmother, Amy Grice was a women’s dorm mother in the early 1970s. She literally grew up on campus!

“As a little girl I could be found either in the back of the physics lab, the Registrar’s Office or playing in the dormitory,” explained Mary Ann.

Phi Beta Lambda Officers Jones College 1985. Mary Ann Hess stands in the middle

As a JC student, she served in leadership roles for the International Honor Society, Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society as the Reporter and attended the National Convention in Washington, D.C., the Honors Institute in Biloxi, and the Regional Convention in Meridian. As a member of Phi Beta Lambda, Business Honor Society, Hess served the JC student organization and the State PBL as Parliamentarian. She topped off her time at Jones by being selected to the Hall of Fame.

Her relationship with Jones College may have also pre-destined her to become an Athenian Fellow, which she compares to as a “book club” to train leaders. To be a Fellow, you go through 10 classes, which means reading 10 books, get recognized, and then do more training to be a Facilitator. With only one Facilitator in the state, Hess said she has her eyes on that designation next.

“I know of a few clerks who only have six or seven classes,” she explained. “To train and get leadership on an international level with skills that are specific to each state is difficult. We take a book on leadership then do a report. We report back in small groups to discuss the points of the book and the Facilitator teaches the eight-hour leadership skill-based class on the books we’ve read. It’s a really good way to learn.”

Her priorities as a leader in the international municipal clerk community are to enhance educational resources for her colleagues around the world. Hess shared, “I want to make courses easily accessible and affordable. It breaks my heart to see clerks, especially in small towns and villages without the education or resources to do a good job.”

Mary Ann encourages and ensures her coworkers in the Laurel City Clerk’s Office also have opportunities to work with the IIMC to obtain specialized credentialing that will help them in their careers. Ultimately, excellent service is allowed to flourish in the City of Laurel with this training. 

“The city has always stressed education and this mayor really promotes education,” Hess explained.

Hess has worked in city government for more than 28 years, with her first job being the performance auditor in the Department of Finance and Administration for the State of Tennessee. In 2000, she began working at City Hall, obtaining her Certified Municipal Clerk (CMC) designation in 2001, and in 2012, she became the first City of Laurel staff member to earn her Master Municipal Clerk (MMC) designation.

Other organizations Hess has served in a leadership role include being the Past State President of the Mississippi Municipal Clerks and Collectors Association, Mississippi City/County Management Association, and the Mississippi Association of Parliamentarians. For 13 years, she has also served on the Board of Directors of the Mississippi Municipal League. Her community activities include serving as a State Officer for nine years in the Mississippi State Society Daughters of the American Revolution and as a Past Chapter Regent of the Nahoula Chapter in Laurel.  

City Clerks are responsible for working with county officials and election commissions to ensure that city elections are held in compliance with local, state, and federal laws. Her office also oversees the administration of privilege licenses. In addition, Hess also leads the city’s finance department where she prepares and oversees the city of Laurel’s nearly $73 million-dollar annual budget. She is responsible for all city accounting except for payroll.

Sertoma Club of Laurel adds to its Jones College scholarships

ELLISVILLE – For the first time in more than 30 years, the Sertoma Club of Laurel held its monthly meeting at Jones College in Ellisville to get an update on the college and to give the Jones College Foundation a $15,000 check to increase the clubs’ endowed scholarship, for a total of $25,000. The Sertoma Club established the scholarship in 2015, after establishing an annual $500 scholarship in 2013. Scholarships are one method of ensuring the clubs’ mission of helping children with speech and hearing issues find resources and assistance.

Sertoma Club of Laurel VP, Wayne Myrick reads annoucnements at its first meeting ever at Jones College

“We’ve been blessed to have good sponsorships for our golf tournaments and T-Ball programs,” said Vice President of the Sertoma Club, Wayne Myrick. “The Sertoma Club of Laurel has assisted anyone needing help in obtaining hearing aids to cochlear implants. The newest project the Club has been involved with includes installing assistive listening technology in theater auditoriums that can broadcast directly to a wide range of hearing aids to help the hearing impaired enjoy performances.”

The additional scholarship money provided by the Sertoma Club will provide more scholarships and possibly bigger scholarships for Jones College students majoring in speech and hearing related majors. Freshman MaKayla Blakeney of Raleigh was awarded this year’s scholarship during the meeting and shared why she is majoring in audiology or speech pathology.

“I have a family member that is deaf, and growing up around him, I’ve always been very interested in it, and I wanted a job in the health field because I love helping people. Being an audiologist or speech pathologist is a combination of all the things I’m interested in,” said Blakeney, who is also a member of the Lady Bobcat Softball Team. “Receiving my education is very important to me; my parents have always pushed and supported me. This opportunity arose and it’s been amazing! I am very blessed and grateful.”

Dana & MaKayla Blakeney with Tori Dew

Head Softball Coach, Tori Dew shared when she was a student at Jones College, she also received a Foundation Scholarship like Blakeney. “Scholarships are one way to get an education and move your life forward for the next 20 to 30 years. My JC Foundation Scholarship helped me further my education and I’m honored to be a part of MaKayla’s life to watch and see how she does in the future.”

The impact of scholarships goes beyond the student recipient. Jones College’s Vice President of External Funding, Sabrina Young explained that the Sertoma Club has established a legacy that is sustaining and far reaching.

“Not only does the student benefit through education, but the community needing these services is also impacted. The Sertoma Club helping the education community brings it all full circle because scholarships impact hundreds of lives as students become professionals providing life-changing services to even more communities.”  

Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith shared the college’s priorities and upcoming projects at the Sertoma Club of Laurel’s meeting on campus.

During the Sertoma Club’s meeting, Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith also shared some of the college’s priorities and current projects that impact services and education. Currently, Jones College provides workforce training for about 9,000 noncredit students in addition to the annual average of 4,600 traditional college aged, university parallel students on campus in Ellisville and at the four County Centers in Bay Springs, Leakesville, Stonewall and Waynesboro. The Jasper County Center in Bay Springs is currently pursuing an expansion to support local industry and current market demands.  Additionally, Jones College is embracing the possibilities of Artificial Intelligence and how to safely incorporate it into education to benefit the community.  One example includes a new, STEM Center currently being designed to provide interactive, technology laden labs for science, math and technology majors in addition to students majoring in medical related fields.

Students traveling to campus will enjoy the renovations to the Student Union in the back part of the A.B. Howard Gymnasium which will include a Starbucks and a place for students to “hang out.” 

Smith ended his update on Jones College by emphasizing, that while you can get a good start at Jones College, it doesn’t mean you have to stop there. “We have people competing at the highest level in most industries because they got a great start and they have aspired to continue to improve. How they make it to the top is all about the journey,” explained Smith.