North to Speak at First JSCC Foundation Banquet

Lt. Col. Oliver North, a retired combat-decorated veteran and best-selling author, will keynote the Jackson State Community College Foundation’s first annual banquet on April 21 at the Carl Perkins Civic Center.

A syndicated columnist and television host, North served in the U.S. Marines as an officer for 22 years. He was assigned to the National Security Council staff in the Ronald Reagan administration and served as counter-terrorism coordinator from 1983 to 1986.

“He is a highly decorated war hero, and he is a great supporter of education,” said Dee Henderson, Jackson State’s director of development and alumni affairs. “It should be an interesting evening with a world-class speaker. We hope that the community, through their support by attending, will gain personal insight not only into Jackson State, but also have a connection to someone who is relevant to our time and is knowledgeable of military affairs.”

The nonprofit Jackson State Community College Foundation is the school’s top fundraising arm and will sell sponsorships, tables and seating for the event to support various needs on campus.

“The foundation helps the college with financial needs, both of the college and the students we serve,” Blanding said. “It is a vital part of assisting the citizens of West Tennessee through scholarships, facility needs for adequate classroom needs, and programs of the college.”

In addition to raising capital for facilities, the April Foundation Banquet will provide scholarships for nontraditional students – people ages 25 and older who may not qualify for regular scholarships.

“These are people who are going back to get a degree, or they are taking classes to move up the job ladder where they work,” Henderson said. “And some, perhaps, their business closed, and they were laid off. They are the economic backbone of West Tennessee. They pay taxes. They live here. They support their families. They have a vested interest in West Tennessee, and we want to help them achieve their academic and economic goals.”

The event will also raise awareness about the college and its far-reaching impact. Jackson State serves 14 counties in West Tennessee with a total population of approximately 450,000. It is the area’s leader in providing top quality education and training for local employers.

The foundation’s board of directors chose to host Col. North as a guest speaker because he is well-known and knowledgeable about global affairs in today’s world, Henderson said.

His awards for service in combat include the Silver Star, the Bronze Star for valor and two Purple Hearts for wounds in action. North was involved in planning the rescue of 804 medical students on the island of Grenada and played a major role in the capture of the terrorists who hijacked the cruise ship Achille Lauro. Described as an American hero by Reagan, he helped plan a raid on Muammar Qaddafi’s terror bases in Libya and was targeted for assassination by Abu Nidal, a terrorist killed in Baghdad in 2002.

“Lt. Col. Oliver North is a combat decorated U.S. Marine with an extensive background in terrorism,” Blanding said. “He is also an inventor, columnist and host of ‘War Stories’ on Fox News Channel. We expect him to share his knowledge of the world today and further educate us all on these conditions.”

North serves on the board of the National Rifle Association and is the founder of Freedom Alliance, which provides college scholarships to the children of military personnel killed in the line of duty.

Blanding said he wants the community to attend the Jackson State Foundation Banquet to not only support the foundation, but also to have an opportunity to hear North firsthand. The fundraising banquet is expected to become an annual event with keynote presentations from other nationally recognized speakers each year.

“An event of this magnitude has never been done by JSCC before,” Blanding said. “We hope to make this a tradition with this one as our launch. The choice of the speaker was for the public’s interest.”

The foundation will continue to look for interesting speakers who can address important topical issues to provide value to the community while raising funds and awareness for the college, Henderson said.

“Jackson State Community College is proud to be a part of the West Tennessee community, and we are proud of our students and graduates,” Henderson said. “We’re also very proud of the relationships we have built with others in West Tennessee, including with businesses and industry.”

Tickets for the event can be purchased by calling the civic center box office at 731-425-8587.

JSCC Students Receive All-Tennessee Academic Honor

At a special ceremony in Nashville Feb. 2, two of Jackson State Community College’s students were honored for academic excellence. Summer Vaughn and Matthew Ballard were honored along with other students from Tennessee’s 13 community colleges. In all, there were 26 outstanding students that were named to the 2015 All-Tennessee Academic Team at a special luncheon at the War Memorial Auditorium in downtown Nashville.

Summer has been actively involved in Phi Theta Kappa at Jackson State where she currently serves as president for the organization. She is scheduled to graduate from the nursing program at JSCC in May and has completed the requirements to be an honors graduate. After graduation, Summer plans to attend the University of Tennessee at Martin to obtain her BSN. From that point, she plans to attend Union University and earn her doctorate as a nurse anesthetist.

Matthew will graduate JSCC this spring with a major in physics. His goal is to continue his studies in physics and to obtain a Ph.D. He has an ultimate career goal of being a theoretical physicist. Matthew has a wide range of interests that include playing and writing music, training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu, and spending time outdoors.

Dr. Anna Esquivel, advisor and sponsor for Phi Theta Kappa at JSCC, comments, “Both Summer and Matthew have demonstrated excellent leadership skills as officers in Phi Theta Kappa. That they have been able to actively engage in their campus community while maintaining excellence in their studies is a testament to their academic achievement.”

Dr. Bruce Blanding, JSCC president, stated, “[Summer and Matthew] deserve this honor, and we are very proud of their accomplishments. Their involvement in PTK has provided them with leadership opportunities that will better prepare them for the next steps in their academic and professional careers.”

The All-Tennessee Academic Team is comprised of students nominated by their colleges to be considered for the All-USA Academic Team, sponsored by USA Today and Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. Each of the state’s 13 community colleges selects two outstanding students to recognize for their academic achievement, leadership and service to the community.

Phi Theta Kappa is the largest honor society in American higher education, with more than 2 million members and 1,200 chapters in the U.S. and beyond. Students must have a minimum 3.5 grade-point average to qualify for membership.

Tennessee Pathway Day offers first statewide virtual college fair March 16

Planning a path through college just got easier with the first statewide virtual college fair for Tennessee students on March 16 from 1 to 6 p.m. Tennessee Pathway Day is an event for both prospective college students and current community college students wanting to learn more about transferring to a university in Tennessee.

During the five-hour live event, prospective and current students can chat with representatives from more than 25 Tennessee colleges and universities from home using their computers, tablets or smartphones. Participants can ask questions, search for scholarships, download information and explore the Tennessee Transfer Pathway program that guarantees credits to transfer from community colleges to universities. Interested students are encouraged to register ahead of time at

“This is the first statewide college fair offered entirely online in Tennessee,” said Dr. Tristan Denley, vice chancellor of academic affairs for the Tennessee Board of Regents. “It’s an incredible opportunity for students to discover what opportunities are out there, whether looking at colleges close to them or across the state.”

During the event, live representatives from colleges and universities will be available to chat online with students who are just starting to plan their college experience or current college enrollees who are interested in transferring to a four-year university. Students also will be encouraged to consider following a Tennessee Transfer Pathway to help them navigate their way to a degree with credits designed for a smooth transfer.


For those who have never attended college, Tennessee Pathway Day provides a unique opportunity to visit with multiple schools across the state in a single afternoon and explore options to complete their first two years at a community college before transferring to a university to complete a bachelor’s degree.

The Tennessee Transfer Pathway program eliminates confusion and uncertainty over what classes to take by providing a seamless transition from any of the state’s 13 community colleges to participating four-year universities. Each pathway lays out a specific schedule of courses to follow for their first two years at a community college. Once completed, students receive their associate degrees and are guaranteed that their credit hours will allow them to transfer to any state university as a junior to pursue a bachelor’s degree.

Pathways are perhaps particularly helpful to Tennessee Promise students, who can take advantage of the state’s offer to cover the cost of full-time tuition at a community college for up to two years, Dr. Denley said

“The Tennessee Transfer Pathway program is an invaluable resource to anyone starting their higher education journey,” said Dr. Denley. “Following a designated pathway saves students time and money and helps them get off to a strong start in their first two years.”


Current community college students also will have much to consider, whether or not they are currently on a transfer pathway. The event will allows current students interested in continuing their education to connect with representatives from universities across the state to understand the transfer process and discuss avenues for turning their associate degrees into bachelor’s or higher degrees.

Participating universities include all TBR institutions — Austin Peay State University, East Tennessee State University, Middle Tennessee State University, Tennessee State University, Tennessee Technological University and University of Memphis — as well as private universities, such as Lipscomb, Tennessee Wesleyan and Fisk universities.

While live chats will only be available on March 16, students may visit the web site afterward to view information from the colleges and universities through March 31.

The Tennessee Board of Regents is among the nation’s largest higher education systems, governing 46 post-secondary educational institutions. The TBR system includes six universities, 13 two-year colleges and 27 colleges of applied technology, providing programs across the state to about 200,000 students.

Duo Guitiano to Perform 8th Straight Year at JSCC

Now a standing tradition at Jackson State Community College, the musical duo of Dr. Amanda Virelles and Dr. Carlos Castilla are set to perform at the college for their eighth straight year. They will perform at the main campus in Ayers Auditorium Thursday, March 24 at 6:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public.

The International Education program of JSCC is hosting Virelles and Castilla. They are classically trained musicians. Virelles and Castilla have been performing together for many years. While their repertoire is very broad with many styles of music, their performance is typically tailored to consist primarily of Spanish and Latin music.

The term Duo Guitiano is used to describe the instrumental combination of guitar and piano. Dr. Virelles plays piano and Dr. Castilla plays classic Latin American guitar. Both Virelles and Castilla have studied music in world-renowned universities as well as performing in numerous orchestras and music ensembles.

Amanda Virelles is known as a versatile musician, who has played for audiences around the world. Her performances have been described as sensible, profound, and energetic. She has performed as a soloist as well as collaborative artist throughout the United States, France, Russia, Colombia, Peru, Chile, Argentina, and Cuba. Currently, Dr. Virelles is assistant professor of Piano at Fayetteville State University.

Colombian-American guitarist, Carlos Castilla, has been featured as a soloist with orchestras and chamber ensembles, as well as in solo recitals in different cities of Latin America and the United States. He has worked as a collaborative artist with orchestras featuring stars such as Placido Domingo, James Galway, and Bernadette Peters. Carlos is the co-founder of Duo Guitiano, along with Cuban-American pianist Amanda Virelles, and is known for his innovative technique, clear sound, and soulful interpretations. Carlos currently teaches all guitar courses at Coastal Carolina Community College and runs his private studio.

Mary Wadley, coordinator for this event, says, “This is an annual tradition and a gift to the community.” She continues, “This and other such events are hosted by the International Education committee at Jackson State. An emphasis on international education at the college is relatively new and this is a great way to communicate this to the community.”

Each year, Jackson State sponsors several students to study abroad through the program. As Wadley notes, “This is an opportunity most people do not associate with community colleges.”

For more information, please contact Mary Wadley, at or by calling (731) 424-3520 ext. 50252.