Retired Naval Commander pursues new opportunities at JSCC

Debbie O’Bryant had already seen the world as a U.S. Naval officer, raised her family and earned an associate degree in general studies, a bachelor’s degree in adult education and a master’s degree in aeronautical science–when she decided to go to Jackson State Community College in 2016.

A retired Navy Commander, O’Bryant was working at St. Mary’s Church in Camden when she was told by the diocesan accountant that she needed to be able to do an accrual of church finances. She didn’t know how, so she enrolled in night classes to earn an associate degree in business in office technology.

She found that life at Jackson State was different from what she had experienced at other colleges. “Everyone was friendly,” O’Bryant said. “The students were kind and caring. This was a place where professors cared about the students. The professors will stick with you, encourage you and coach you.”

She participated in Jackson State’s study abroad program twice: She won the JSCC International Ambassador Scholarship for Scotland 2017 and for Amsterdam/Berlin/Paris in 2018.

She finished her coursework for her associate degree in December. Her life experiences made her a non-traditional college student in many ways.

Born in England, O’Bryant grew up in Staten Island and Mt. Hope, New York. Her dad was in the Air Force; her mom was a nurse. O’Bryant joined the Navy in 1978 and rose through the ranks to Commander before retiring in 2010.

Commander O’Bryant holds a couple of firsts. She was the first woman, Aviation Maintenance Duty Officer TAR to become a detailer/community manager. She was also the first woman Aircraft Intermediate Maintenance Officer (AIMD), TAR and served as the Department Head of the AIMD, Naval Air Station, Atlanta, GA.

Her last deployment was a 13-month stint as the first Navy Liaison Officer in the Office of Military Cooperation in the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Egypt. She was there when Somali pirates captured Capt. Richard Phillips and took his cargo ship hostage in 2009. She journeyed through the Suez Canal on the USS Eisenhower with Egyptian military officers.

She and her husband, Tom, a retired commander and naval aviator, have one son, Thomas, who is a Lt. Commander Engineering Duty Officer in the Navy. The O’Bryants moved to 100 acres in Carroll County because they had ridden horses in the area and liked the rolling hills of West Tennessee.

O’Bryant has won many awards in her life; her most recent was being named Woman Military Veteran of the Year on April 2 by the Jackson Area Business and Professional Women.

High on Jackson State and what it offers, O’Bryant said, “my husband and I tell everybody to come to Jackson State. This school really prepares young people and adults to succeed at a four-year college. The standards are so high.”

2019 QUEST orientation applications being accepted

Jackson State Community College is currently accepting applications for QUEST, a week-long orientation for incoming first-time freshmen who identify as African-American males.

QUEST participants experience team-building activities, community networking, one-on-one advising, career counseling and other unique opportunities to connect with JSCC students, staff and faculty. The purpose of QUEST is to help students to prepare for success in college and beyond.

This year’s QUEST is scheduled for August 5 – August 9, 2019. Activities begin at 8:30 a.m. and end at 3 p.m. each day except for Friday, August 9, when activities will end shortly after noon. Lunch is provided each day. QUEST also includes evening activities on Monday – Thursday; these are strongly encouraged but are not mandatory. Dinner will be provided to all who participate in evening activities.

JSCC can accept only 25 students into this year’s QUEST. Those participants who take part in all activities during the week will receive a stipend of $400.

The deadline to apply to participate in QUEST is noon on July 12, 2019.

In addition to the above application, participants must have applied to the college and been admitted to JSCC.  You also will need to schedule and participate in a Great Expectations (GE) orientation session once your admission application is accepted.

This year’s QUEST participants will be selected and notified by July 19, 2019.

If you have questions, please contact Kara Reeves either by phone at (731) 424-3520, ext. 50434 or by email at

College success attributed to professors and opportunities at JSCC

The first time Jared Page toured Jackson State Community College, “it just felt it was right for me,” the Henderson resident said.

At Jackson State, he learned how to transition from high school to college, studied hard and prepared for the second leg of his higher education after he earned an associate degree. He also took advantage of extra opportunities like Jackson State’s study abroad program.

“I just really love to talk about this institution that fostered my ability to appreciate higher education and pursue my interest in political science,” Page said.

So, when he saw Jackson State President Dr. Alana Hamilton at a higher education subcommittee meeting in Nashville earlier this year, he quickly rushed over to say hello. Page, now a University of Memphis-Lambuth student, was in Nashville working as a legislative intern for State Rep. Jim Coley, a Republican representing the Bartlett area. Coley was chairman of the House Higher Education Subcommittee.

For four months, through April 26, Page set up appointments for Coley with constituents, lobbyists and state officials; answered the phones; handled emails; helped file legislative bills; and did other work as needed. At the same time, he earned 12 hours of college credit and was paid a biweekly stipend through the University of Memphis.

Page had applied for the internship at the encouragement of Dr. Paul Mego, political science department head at UM-Lambuth, who knew of Page’s interest in politics.

This summer, Page will work for Jackson attorney Mike Weinman and spend July in Washington, D.C., on an internship through Internews, an international nonprofit. After graduating from UM-Lambuth this fall with a bachelor’s degree in political science, he plans to go to law school or get a master’s degree in political science.

As he talks about his plans and the opportunities he has had in college, Page looks back at his experiences at Jackson State. He points to his professors, like Dr. Anna Esquivel, his advisor, and Dr. Liz Mayo, who also helped him succeed.

“My Jackson State professors gave me the resources I needed,” he said. “They’ll work with you one on one.”

Page grew up in Henderson and graduated from Chester County High School. He didn’t know if he was prepared for college. Jackson State was close to home and affordable, he said.

“I found a college home where I could be comfortable and succeed. Jackson State helped me out tremendously.”