ELLISVILLE – Magee native and current Hattiesburg resident, Chanel Evans is “non-traditional” in every sense. After graduating from Columbia High School in 2003 and a brief taste of college life, Evans decided to take a break from academia. She thrived in the restaurant world as a young adult with companies like Popeyes and the Krystal Company. In 2021, she decided to return to college majoring in Psychology at Jones College. She graduated in May 2023 with two academic degrees, in addition to earning four certifications and she is almost finished with another degree.
“I’m a high performer; it just made sense to enroll in a second-degree plan,” said Evans. “This is for any student who felt discounted along their journey even if they’ve experienced imposter syndrome and have overcome any amount of adversity. Not only are you not the sum of your adversity, but just on the other side of fear is everything you desire.”
Evans is currently serving the Wendy’s Company as the Divisional Franchise Development Manager, by supporting the training of 400 restaurants in several states, through food safety, facilitating leadership and development workshops while also disseminating promotional product training sessions. After earning an associate degree in Psychology in 2023 from JC, she started her Bachelor of Arts in GST+: Diversity & Cultural Awareness with a minor in Criminal Justice at Southern New Hampshire University. In addition to juggling her job, she decided to return to classes at JC last fall to earn an associate of arts in general studies.
“Upon acceptance into Southern New Hampshire University, I learned that I could transfer 30 free credits towards the completion of my bachelor’s degree, granting me 90 transferable credits in total. My love of Jones College and the Rho Sigma chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society alleviated the guesswork as to where I would complete the subsequent coursework.”
In April of 2023, Evans earned one of two spots from JC to be selected to the PTK All-Mississippi Academic Team and was nominated for the All-USA Academic Team, after earning a 4.0 GPA with all, online courses and accumulating many hours volunteering and assisting PTK and Jones College. Her hard work earned her an invitation to be a PTK officer for the 2023-24 academic year.
“At our first meeting, she was one of the very first members to volunteer for all of our service projects,” said Sarah Ishee, Jones College Dean of Students and PTK Advisor. “All of our officers are wonderful, but she is so exceptional that everybody has really stepped up their game. She is that kind of a person, but she doesn’t realize that we all want to be better because of her. We genuinely see Chanel as a shining star. She makes us so proud with her message of love, working hard, and leadership!”
PTK headquarters also discovered her story and how PTK helped in her pursuit of educational greatness. In September, Evans was featured in a blog by the International Honor Society, which shared her story about being an online student actively involved in PTK. (https://www.ptk.org/2023/09/19/post-traditional-student-finds-her-place-at-community-college/)
“For years, I merely existed. I was a shell of my former self, tethered to the remnants of a life that did not measure up to societal norms. To share my story on such an immense platform required a profound level of vulnerability on my part. Admittedly, the perfectionist in me felt great reluctance but the survivor within hoped that the challenges I have overcome would serve as inspiration for my greater community.”
Chanel continues to share her story by actively helping others as the Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society’s, Honors in Action Director. Last semester, Evans led a group of PTK students, with the assistance of Construction & Residential Maintenance students, in the purchase and delivery of toys, through a grant she procured, to Ellisville’s Loving Mother’s Day Care & Preschool.
“The Honors in Action Project’s focus was to identify the limitations to and effects of play in children of poverty. The daycare center director was tasked with evaluating the quality of play amongst her students before and after the recreational toy donations. After which, the Honors in Action Project Team quantified the impact of the project by analyzing the survey’s data prior to the submission of their findings to PTK Headquarters,” explained Evans.
A second component of the project involved Evans’ job. PTK introduced Wendy’s “Frosty Key Tags” to accomplish part of the project’s mission, which is to refine childhood disparities. The Frosty Key Tags enable the HIA Team to contribute to a local mission with a global impact because the Key Tags entitle the children of the daycare to one complimentary Jr. Frosty a day for the entire 2024 calendar year, at no cost. The Jones College PTK chapter is also soliciting permission from the Jones County Board of Supervisors to adopt Roosevelt Park in Laurel, under Evans’ leadership.
“I am committed to being of service in any capacity bestowed upon me to the very best of my ability. Their decisions are sound, and I am honored to contribute to Phi Theta Kappa, Jones College, and our community!”
Evans also shared, “This leadership opportunity has been the stretch assignment that I never knew I needed, and I have never known this level of support! I now have the confidence to pursue my Ed. L.D. at the University of Southern Mississippi as a Golden Scholar following a master’s degree in organizational leadership and an Organizational Leadership Specialty Certificate from Harvard Business School. I begin grad school in May!”
As Evans continues to drive her own “brand” to new heights, she is honoring the one person who inspired her to reach her dreams. Chanel recently established a Jones College Foundation scholarship for a non-traditional Jones College student to honor her brother Rashad, who is the catalyst for her returning to college and who passed away in 2020. The Rashad Evans Memorial Scholarship is awarded annually each year for $1,000. Evans hopes to be able to add to the scholarship in the years to come.
“As a PTK advisor, faculty member, and now in administration, I don’t think I’ve ever known of another student who established a scholarship like Chanel,” said Sarah Ishee. “When she told me she was doing this, I was like, well of course Chanel is going to honor her brother in such a lasting way and in a way that is going to help other students because she pays it forward.”
The Jones College Foundation is now accepting scholarship applications for the Fall 2024/Spring 2025 academic year through the JC App. Applicants must be current Jones College students, maintain a minimum GPA of 2.50, and be enrolled full-time for the upcoming academic year.
“Even when I am not here, Rashad’s legacy will thrive and that opportunity will continue to enable others to accomplish their goals,” said Evans. “Donors are investing in the leaders of tomorrow, affording them boundless opportunities through their graciousness. This is just one way I can help.”