After three children and back surgeries for ruptured discs following the birth of each child, Emma Long thought her working days were over.
With her back problems, she knew she wouldn’t be able to continue as a nursing assistant. But when Vocational Rehab offered her the opportunity to go back to school, she seized it and chose Jackson State Community College. Her major was psychology.
“Jackson State gave me a new beginning,” she said. “Jackson State gave me my life back.”
With her oldest child only 5 years old, Long wasn’t a traditional college student. The college worked with her so she could be successful, she said.
“They would help with anything I needed; all I had to do was let them know.”
For example, when her part-time, work-study job required a conference out of town the same week as a final exam, her professor let her take the exam the following week.
After graduating from Jackson State in 1986, Long received a scholarship at Lambuth University and completed her bachelor’s degree there.
She then spent 24 years working at Pathways, first as a case manager and then as a continuous treatment team leader. For her last 14 years at Pathways, Long was the Criminal Justice Mental Health Liaison for Jackson City Judge Blake Anderson. There, she said, she found her calling.
Her job was to set up treatment options – from mental health counseling to drug rehab – so those accused of crimes could get the help they needed to be successful, she said. “I started my day at 8 every morning at arraignment.”
Her program was working so well that others in the state used it as a model. “At one point, they told me I had seen over 10,000 people,” she said. “I never tired of it.”
Long, who is 67, retired when her husband, Willie Sr., got sick. He died in 2016. Best friends throughout their 45 years of marriage, they raised three children: LaShandra and Cindra, who live in Texas, and Willie Jr., who lives in South Carolina. Long also has three grandchildren.
A deeply religious person, Long credits the Lord for bringing Jackson State into her life. “It was the right place. I just took the long way around to get there. It was like my home. When I walk through those halls today, I still feel good.”
To anyone thinking of college, Long has one piece of advice: “Jackson State is where you need to start.”