Jones College faculty and staff accomplishments honored 

ELLISVILLE – Fourteen Jones College faculty and staff members were recently honored for their workplace accomplishments over the previous academic year. The Employee Appreciation Awards began in 2004 with funds contributed by retired JCJC President, Dr. Ronald Whitehead, and the college’s Foundation, Inc.  Finalists were selected and interviewed by the Faculty and Staff Recognition Program’s Selection Committee. Prior to the employee recognition program, a luncheon was provided by the college and the JCJC Foundation Inc.

“As we gather to honor our esteemed faculty and staff at Jones College, we celebrate both individual achievements and the collective dedication that propels our institution forward,” said Executive Vice President, Sabrina Young. “Every person on this campus plays a vital role in the success and functionality of Jones College. This event is a token of our immense appreciation for the unwavering commitment and exceptional efforts put forth daily by our colleagues. Together, we build the foundation of excellence that defines Jones College. On this day, we celebrate these achievements together.”

Christy Holifield, Lynn Grillo and Sabrina Young

The Leadership Award for Administrative Excellence was established seven years ago to honor a mid-level administrator whose commitment to the profession stands out amongst their peers. Comptroller, CPA and Assistant V.P. of Business Affairs, Lynn Grillo was selected as the recipient of the 2024 Leadership Award for Administrative Excellence. Jones College President, Dr. Jesse Smith praised Grillo’s accounting abilities over the three years she has served at Jones College and her co-workers appreciate her accessibility and creating a great work environment.

“She is timely and very responsive to all forms of communication,” shared Asset Manager, Kay Walker. “She cares deeply about making sure we take care of ourselves and our families first and has created a very balanced office environment conducive to having non-work-related conversation and fun, while also making sure we are all on task and complete the needed work load for the day. She is an amazing boss, and I am glad she is being recognized for it.”  

Joanna Cooley

Speech instructor, Dr. Joanna Cooley was selected to receive the Barbara and Gary Sauls Award for Excellence in Teaching Humanities. The Humanities Division faculty member has been teaching at Jones since 2003. The scholarship and awards committee acknowledged how Cooley exemplifies intellectual integrity in the classroom, and has encouraged analytical thinking skills, she loves humanitarian pursuits and fosters a positive rapport with her students. This award was initiated by JCJC alumni, Mr. & Mrs. Gary W. “Buddy” and Barbara Sauls. Their daughter, Tracy was a 1990 JCJC graduate. Mr. Sauls was a former JCJC Board of Trustees member and Barbara Sauls is currently on the JCJC Foundation’s Advisory Board. Cooley was awarded a $500 cash prize and an acrylic plaque.

In the individual employee appreciation honors, 11 individuals from three categories of employees, faculty members, office staff and administrative support, and employees working in, maintenance, housekeeping, campus grounds and campus police were each awarded certificates of achievement. Faculty finalists each received a cash prize of $250 and the overall winner received an additional $750 and an acrylic plaque. Each staff employee finalist was awarded a cash prize of $125, and the overall winner received an extra $500 and an acrylic plaque.

Sabrina Young, Josh Ishee, Ethan Wimberly, Dr. Melinda Miller-Butler and Dr. Tessa Flowers

Finalists for the faculty awards included biology instructor, Dr. Melinda Miller-Butler, commercial and residential maintenance instructor, Josh Ishee, welding instructor, Ethan Wimberly and emergency technology-paramedic program director and Healthcare Simulation Center Director, Dr. Benji Sessums. Selected as the Teacher of the Year was Dr. Sessums for his dedication to Jones and going above and beyond in his various roles.

Dr. Benji Sessums

“His efforts in organizing the Healthcare Simulation Center during the Covid-19 pandemic were instrumental in ensuring the continuity and excellence of our healthcare programs. Notably, his leadership in orchestrating the relocation of the SIM center to facilitate ongoing hands-on learning until the completion of the new facility underscores his dedication to maintaining high standards despite adversity,” said Dean of Health Care Services, Teresa McDonald. “Moreover, Benji’s instrumental role in securing grants for healthcare SIM equipment showcases his proactive approach to enhancing educational resources and opportunities for students. His passion for the EMS/Paramedic program is evident in his tireless advocacy and leadership within the college and statewide in Mississippi.”

Ironically, Dr. Sessums had to miss the Employee Recognition Luncheon because of his pastoral duties. A member of his congregation passed away and he was assisting the family with a funeral. He acknowledged the honor in a statement.

“”I am deeply honored and profoundly grateful to receive the Faculty of the Year award at Jones College. This recognition reflects the vibrant spirit and commitment of our entire academic community, not just me alone. I am privileged to work alongside dedicated colleagues and to engage with our inspiring students, who continuously push the boundaries of excellence. Together, we create a learning environment that not only educates but also empowers, and I am truly thankful for this opportunity to make a difference,” said Dr. Sessums.

Rachel Jefcoat, Laurel Musgrove, LaTrece Evans, Ty Walters and Sabrina Young

Nominated for the Office Staff and Administrative Support Employee of the Year award included Ty Walters from Information Technology, Laurel Musgrove from the Business Office, LaTrece Evans from External Marketing and Rachel Jefcoat from Enrollment Management. Evans was selected as the Employee of the Year for the Office Staff and Administrative Support division.

Her nominator explained, “LaTrece is a bundle of energy and very helpful and caring to all the students. She attends many campus and sporting events to support Jones and the students. The students come to her for help in various ways from information to studying. LaTrece is always smiling and a positive start to each morning.”

Nicole Varnado & Billy Nash

In the maintenance, housekeeping, campus grounds and campus police departments division, Environmental Safety/Housekeeper, Theresa Woodward was nominated along with Special Projects employee, Josh Messemore and Landscape Services employee, Chris Archer. Taking the top spot as Employee of the Year was Chris Archer for working tirelessly along with other people to make the athletic fields, as well as our campus beautiful. His nominator said, “Chris takes pride in the job he does and goes above and beyond to help us create a great athletic environment for our student athletes.”       

As an honorary employee of the college, Sodexo cafeteria employee, Nicole Varnado was honored for her work. She received a $500 cash award for her efforts on behalf of the college.


Jones County Junior College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award associate degrees. Degree-granting institutions also may offer credentials such as certificates and diplomas at approved degree levels. Questions about the accreditation of Jones County Junior College may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, GA 3033-4097, by calling (404) 679-4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC’s website (

Statement of Non-Discrimination and ADA Statement: Jones County Junior College does not discriminate on the basis of race, color, national origin, age, sex, or disability in its programs, activities, or employment practices. The (ADA/ Section 504) ADA Coordinator, Student Affairs, phone 601-477-2673, and (Title IX) Title IX Coordinator, Hutcheson Hubbard Administration Building, phone 601-477-4127, have been designated to handle inquiries and grievances regarding the non-discrimination policies. Jones County Junior College, 900 South Court Street, Ellisville, MS 39437.