Jul 12th, 2021
Michael Williams and Marcie James arrived at Jackson State in Fall 2002 for similar reasons.
Michael, who graduated from high school in Hendersonville, was offered a scholarship to play baseball at Jackson State. His mom was disabled, he said, "and financially, it helped my family out to start at a less expensive community college."
Marcie, who had just graduated from Jackson Christian School, said she wasn't ready to go away to college. She didn't know what she wanted to do after college, and she didn't want to waste her parents' money on a four-year college while she figured it out. Then Jackson State offered her the opportunity to play softball. "It was local; it was an easy choice," she said.
When Michael and Marcie graduated from the community college two years later, they realized they had achieved much more than associate degrees. They were part of a family of athletes. They had a solid foundation in college studies. And, they had discovered one another.
"I found myself at Jackson State," Michael said. "It helped me grow as a person and be independent. It was a win-win. It allowed me to take the classes I needed to determine my major."
"Hands down," Marcie said, "it was a good choice. It helped me figure out what I wanted to do."
Both talk about "the family" of athletes they discovered at Jackson State. Athletes would hang out with one another and study together. In fact, Marcie and Michael met during a study session. "We became friends," Marcie said.
During the spring of their freshman year, Michael asked her out on a date. "We've been together 19 years," Marcie said. Today, the Williamses have two boys, Easton, 10, and Landon, 9.
They continue to stay in contact with a lot of the players they hung out with, said Marcie, who ended up playing both basketball and softball on scholarship for the two years she was at Jackson State.
Michael's playing experience at Jackson State resulted in a full-ride scholarship to play baseball at Arkansas State University during his junior and senior years. "I was blessed," Michael said. "Many people do not realize that community colleges have very competitive athletic programs. I had a full-ride baseball scholarship at a Division 1 school."
Marcie followed Michael to Arkansas State. The transition from Jackson State to Arkansas State was easy, she said.
Two years later, she graduated with a bachelor's degree in accounting with a minor in management, and Michael graduated with a bachelor's degree in management.
Today, Marcie is a CPA and a partner at ATA, an accounting firm. Michael is a field reimbursement manager for Novartis Pharmaceuticals.
They continue to be involved in Jackson State. Marcie is on the board of Jackson State's Foundation. Both encourage athletes and non-athletes to attend Jackson State after high school.
And they are frequent spectators at Jackson State's athletic events. "We love sports, and we're big fans of Jackson State," Marcie said.
Both tell high school graduates to consider Jackson State. "It's economical, and you get a good education," Marcie said. "It's challenging. Regardless of what some people may think, you just don't go to class and pass. If anything, you're held more accountable. The teachers know who you are."
Recalling her time at Jackson State, she added, "I was blown away ... by the teachers, the classes, the environment, and the level Jackson State genuinely cares about its students."