Jackson State earns top recognition with Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society

Jackson State Community College’s Chi Omicron Chapter of the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society was awarded a Five-Star chapter distinction, which is the highest rating the international organization bestows.

Throughout the year, the chapter’s officers and members worked to raise the rating from Two-Star status, which it had previously received. The star status is indicative of a chapter’s engagement – Phi Theta Kappa chapters have five levels of engagement that progress from local to international involvement.

Chapter members received the award during the organization’s national convention in Nashville.

“It took so much work to accomplish this goal: a college project, an Honors In Action project, holding bi-weekly meetings, recruiting members, volunteering, meeting with and learning from other chapters and holding inductions each semester,” said Dr. Anna Esquivel, Assistant Professor of English and a Chi Omicron advisor. “Chapter members have truly earned this distinction.”

Also during the convention, Dr. Allana Hamilton, Jackson State president, received Phi Theta Kappa’s Distinguished College Administrator Award. The award recognized her work with the organization at Northeast State Community College where she was Vice President of Academic Affairs before her move to Jackson State this past January.

Jackson State’s Chi Omicron Chapter’s charter was established in 1971, four years after the community college opened. Officers of the Jackson State chapter are Matthew Ballard, president; Rachel Blankinship, vice president; Alexis Beibers, secretary; and Janelle Kyle, treasurer. Along with Esquivel, Prof. David Hart also is a faculty advisor.

The Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society – with almost 1,300 chapters, including 14 in Tennessee – is the international honor society of two-year colleges and academic programs. Its mission is to recognize academic achievement of college students and provide opportunities for them to grow as scholars and leaders.

Jackson State Community College provides accessible learning opportunities that enhance the lives of individuals, strengthen the workforce and empower the diverse communities of West Tennessee. The institution offers traditional and contemporary associate degrees, certificates, continuing education and enrichment, and college-readiness programs.

Jackson State student serves low-income Hispanic community

Jana McFarlin’s volunteer work to help low-income members of Jackson’s Hispanic community was recognized recently by the Tennessee Higher Education Commission. McFarlin, who volunteers with Operation Hope Neighborhood Ministries to provide a weekly meal and distribute food to needy families, received the commission’s prestigious Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award.

One of her teachers at Jackson State Community College, Associate Professor of Spanish and English Mary Wadley, nominated her for the statewide award.

McFarlin enrolled at Jackson State to take Spanish classes to better serve the community she helps week after week. A recently naturalized citizen from Brazil, McFarlin is fluent in her native Portuguese, but she still found the language barrier to be too strong.

Jackson State was more affordable than other universities and had a schedule that allowed her to keep her job at Chick-fil-A, McFarlin said. “I thought it was a good idea, so I started the process.”

She took a series of tests to establish that her Brazilian education sufficiently prepared her for college in America and immersed herself in the Spanish program – even studying abroad in Spain last summer. McFarlin will graduate with her associate degree next fall and enroll in a four-year university.

She’s happy with her decision to enroll at Jackson State.

“It opened my vision and understanding for art and culture from other countries; it opened my mind. College opens different perspectives and makes you see the world in a different way.”

McFarlin has excelled in school and is in the honors program. She said her teachers and advisors have helped her navigate courses and campus and assisted her when she needed it. And, she said she would recommend Jackson State to anyone.

“They have great professors and a friendly environment, and you can get any assistance you need.”

Wadley, one of her teachers, noticed her community service and nominated her for a Harold Love Outstanding Community Service Award.

“Every task that she undertakes is completed with diligence, initiative, integrity and humility,” Wadley said. “Rain or shine, she is always there; never late and seldom absent. Ready to give her best to any task, even when no one is watching and without expecting any recognition in return, she is the epitome of true servanthood.”

The commission was convinced, and McFarlin recently went to Nashville to receive her award and a $1,000 check, which she will spend on her education. “I was thrilled,” she said. “I was delighted to be able to represent and be an ambassador for Jackson State.”

Her Spanish education is bearing fruit. She serves as a translator on Monday nights at La Mesa, the community-wide meal provided at the Hope Center on Hollywood Drive. She also teaches a small Hispanic group after the meal and spends Wednesday nights distributing food in a local mobile home park with more than 200 low-income Hispanic families.

She’s been working with the Hispanic community through her church for almost six years. One day, she wants to put her degrees to work as a translator and teach Spanish at a college level and English-as-a-Second-Language courses. But, she’ll still volunteer and continue to help the families she has grown to love.

“I saw the need, and I fell in love with it,” she said. “I’ve started building a relationship with them, and I hope we can meet even 1 percent of the needs that they have.”

Technology students celebrate learning through service

The third Advanced Maintenance Technician (AMT) cohort of the industrial technology program at JSCC hosted a party for Boys & Girls Club kids Friday evening, April 21. Eight AMT students have participated in a service learning project that has involved them as tutors and mentors to approximately 40 children of the Boys & Girls Club.

Boys & Girls Club director Sabrina Anderson stated that the assistance provided to her young people by AMT students has made a real difference in their lives. According to Anderson, “The assistance provided has given the youth more self-confidence as well as better grades.”

As the semester and the project come to a close, the AMT students brought their mentees to JSCC for some fun and food. The AMT students gave demonstrations to their mentees to show them better what their studies in industrial technology entail.

Annual art show largest on record

Every Spring, art students at Jackson State exhibit their creations in a student art show on the college’s main campus. This year, 38 students participated in the exhibit with over 140 pieces of 2D and 3D art on display.

Dr. Lisa Smith, JSCC art professor, stated that this year’s students have been so encouraging of their classmates that it “brought out the best in everyone.” According to Smith, “the artwork was so stunning that we decided to leave it on display longer than usual.”

Over 200 students, faculty, staff, administrators, parents, relatives, and people from the community attended this year’s reception for the exhibit. Smith stated that this is the largest attendance ever seen for the reception.

Attendees at the reception/art show were given ballots to vote for their favorite entries. This year’s winners include 1st Place (People’s Choice Award) – Will Lescheck (skateboards); 2nd Place – Olivia Hall (portraits created with lettering); 3rd Place (two-way tie) – Noah Wilson (portraits) and Hailey Jones (pottery).

Interest in the artwork was great. Fifteen pieces of artwork were sold at the exhibit with many more inquiries. Smith was greatly encouraged by the participation at this year’s event and is looking forward to next year. Photos from the event can be seen on the college’s Flickr site: https://flic.kr/s/aHskYA4C6P.

CNA classes begin in summer at JSCC

The Health Sciences division of Jackson State Community College will begin offering certified nursing assistant classes this summer. The classes are being offered as a part of the Healthcare Technician major but may be taken as standalone classes.

The course consists of two 10-week classes that run concurrently. After completing the 10-week course, students may sit for the Certified Nurse Aide licensure exam. The exam is typically given within 1-2 weeks after the final class.

Leah Gray, director of program innovation, states that the class size will be limited to 12 students. To register for the CNA classes, individuals must enroll as a JSCC student with Healthcare Technician as a major, complete the Great Expectations orientation program, and take a placement test. “Since the summer semester begins May 30th, it is important for anyone interested in the CNA classes to act quickly,” states Gray.

The cost for the 10-week CNA course is approximately $1,600 which includes tuition, the textbook, uniform, exam fee, and other miscellaneous expenses. Included in the estimated cost of the program are a drug test, TB skin test, and background check. “This is a quick and inexpensive way to enter the healthcare profession,” said Gray.

Anyone interested in the CNA classes at JSCC should contact Leah Gray at 731-425-2606 or email her at lgray@jscc.edu.

JSCC Student Veterans Association to host 2nd 5K race

The Jackson State Community College Student Veterans Association (SVA) will host a 5K race and one-mile walk on Saturday, April 22. The race will begin at 9 a.m. at the JSCC Student Center. This is the second year for the SVA to hold this event.

The SVA is a national organization that focuses on student veteran academic success. The SVA helps students develop relationships with other veterans that they would not otherwise.

Veterans affairs coordinator Kristine Nakutis has led many positive changes to the veterans affairs program over the past three years. The Military Student Center was created two years ago with funding from the Tennessee Veterans Reconnect Grant. According to Nakutis, the center has provided the college’s military students valuable resources and saved them over $18,000 through textbook and calculator loans over.

Nakutis sees an increased need for support for military students on the horizon. The Tennessee STRONG Act will enable more veterans and military students to earn their education. Nakutis says there will be an increased need for funding to educate students about available benefits. The enrollment of military students is also projected to rise as a result.

To register for the race, runners/walkers can register and pay online with a credit card at https://racesonline.com/events/jscc-student-veterans-camo-5k. Cash or checks can be accepted by Kristine Nakutis or the Military Student Center. For more information, contact Nakutis at 731-425-2618 or at knakutis@jscc.edu.

Duo Guitiano to Perform 9th 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 ninth straight year. They will perform at the main campus in Ayers Auditorium Monday, April 17 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 mwadley@jscc.edu or by calling (731) 424-3520 ext. 50252.

Alumni Profile: Bruce Milton Cole

Bruce Milton Cole graduated from Humboldt High School in 2005 as a shaky, mediocre student. Today, he is finishing his Ph.D. in Spanish literature at the University of Tennessee after finding support from several teachers at Jackson State Community College who showed him how to succeed.

“Jackson State was basically where it all began for me,” Cole said. “It was my cradle. It’s something I’ll always carry with me. My professors gave me the tools to get where I am, and I think those tools will last a lifetime.”

Cole failed seventh grade, and earned average grades throughout high school. He was distracted and didn’t want to do the work. Although he was intelligent, he was a mediocre student, and his grades were inconsistent.

“I was not doing the best I could do,” he said. “As a student, I was basically lost.”

His performance was a reflection of his environment. Most people he knew never left Humboldt, but he wanted more, so he enrolled in Jackson State because it was nearby.

“I knew I wanted something, but I really didn’t know what I wanted to do. I had no idea what I was getting into.”

He took an important step by enrolling, but he continued to perform poorly during his first two semesters. The environment at Jackson State was different from high school, though, and he found teachers willing to provide him with a one-on-one experience.

“The more I got to know some of the professors personally – not just as professors, but as genuine people who wanted to see me do well – the better I did academically,” he said. “Many professors there helped me tremendously to realize my goals and my self-worth.”

Professors such as Teri Maddox, whom Cole called his guiding light, and Mary Wadley, Kim Warren-Cox, James Mayo, Michelle Camp, Claude Bailey and Tim Britt turned his academic career around.

“They were always willing to help me,” he said. “They expected something of me, and I think that is very important.”

Throughout his journey at Jackson State, he also found encouragement from his parents, Theresia Hobson-Cole Jones and Bruce Milton Cole, Sr., who never went to college themselves. They were very supportive of his efforts, especially Cole’s father, who often gave him advice about endurance.

In 2008, Cole graduated from Jackson State with an associate degree in English. He overcame his anxieties about finishing school, and he continued to perform well academically.

He enrolled in Middle Tennessee State University where he changed his major to Spanish and earned his bachelor’s degree in two years. “I finished exactly when I should have finished.”

Two years later, he earned a master’s degree in teaching with an emphasis in Spanish from Middle Tennessee State. After that, he entered University of Tennessee’s Ph.D. program, studying Spanish literature. He has one year to go.

When he finishes, Cole wants a professional career in academics. He wants to provide other struggling students with the tools they need to succeed.

“I plan to teach. I plan to do research. I like to think there is a place somewhere for me at a college like Jackson State where students may need that one-on-one teaching approach.”

Cole can identify with students searching for consistency in their performance and he can provide a unique perspective as a professor.

Looking back, he said he is grateful for his Jackson State experience, and he would recommend the school for anyone in Tennessee looking for an education.

“If I had to do it all over again, I would do it the same way,” he said. “If you want to get there, even if you don’t where that is yet, Jackson State will get you there.”

Achieving the Dream Conference, San Francisco, February 21-24, 2017

In February 2017, several members of the faculty and staff of Jackson State Community College attended the Achieving the Dream (ATD) conference in beautiful San Francisco, California. The ultimate goal of ATD is to bring together “influential policy-makers, thought leaders, and practitioners from over 200 colleges” in order “to reflect on and share lessons from their experience implementing student-success related strategies.” Jackson State Community College is honored and privileged to be among this amazing group of institutions nationwide.

The Jackson State Community College ATD attendees brought back some helpful insights and experiences to share with their colleagues. Student success is the primary goal of Jackson State, and the conference provided insights for improving student success rates throughout the entire Jackson State community. Moving forward, there are plans in the works to tie everything together with the Jackson State mission – lessons learned from ATD, the campus strategic plan, and budget, etc. Jackson State is not unique in the problems or obstacles facing the campus

For more information, check out the ATD website: http://achievingthedream.org/event/15183/dream-2017.

“Spilled Ink” in print this April

Jackson State’s Creative Writing Club is getting ready to release the first print issue of Spilled Ink, the college’s new student literary journal. An online version of the journal has been maintained by the club since its inception in the Spring of 2016, but it was felt that an annual print edition would be an important addition to campus culture.

“All Jackson State faculty, staff, and students are eligible to submit poems and stories to the journal,” said Dr. Ryan Guth, Assistant Professor of English and one of the club’s co-sponsors. “You don’t have to be a member of the club to get your work in print.” Members of the Creative Writing Club serve as editors for the journal: selecting submissions, working with authors on revisions, determining the sequence and layout of pages.

Dr. Guth explained that the 2017 print issue will also include work by JSCC art students, who assisted in judging a contest for the image which will appear on the journal’s cover. “Our goal for the future is to work with other Fine Arts clubs (Art, Photography, Drama) and expand the kinds of material presented in the annual print volume. We want everyone to know that the Humanities are alive and well and supported at Jackson State.”

The anticipated release date for the inaugural issue of Spilled Ink is April 3, 2017. Additional information about Spilled Ink, contact Dr. Ryan Guth at 731,424-3520 ext. 50537 or at rguth@jscc.edu.