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Alcorn University freshman recipient of full-ride Gates Scholarship



Alvin Jones Jr. with several awards and honor cords from high school. (Photo courtesy Alcorn State University)

Heidelberg, Mississippi, native Alvin Jones Jr.’s work ethic has been the catalyst for his early success.

“The hard work that’s gotten me to this point started when I was younger,” said Jones, a freshman at Alcorn State University. “There were many long nights of studying and long days of preparation. There were so many sacrifices that I made to benefit my future. I had to understand at a young age that anything worth having is worth working for. I still believe in this principle today.”

His hard work has paid off. Jones, an agribusiness management major, is a 2020 Gates Scholarship recipient. The Gates Scholarship is a highly selective scholarship for outstanding minority high school seniors from low-income households. The scholarship is funded by a grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and administered by the Hispanic Scholarship Fund and is awarded to 300 student leaders per year.

Earning the scholarship allows Jones to be a positive example for his community. He hopes to inspire others to reach their full potential.

“Receiving this scholarship is one of the proudest moments I’ve had in my life thus far,” he said. “I am from a small town where motivation can be hard to find. I feel that receiving this scholarship will give my community hope and set an example for those that will come after me. I believe that a person’s true character is not displayed by what they do for themselves, but by what they do to help others. I thank God for this blessing.”

Jones appreciates the life lessons and morals his parents instilled in him.

“My parents, Alvin Jones Sr. and Harlena Jones, pushed me and motivated me. When I felt like giving up, they would tell me to trust God now and thank him later,” he said. “Through all things, I kept God first. I prayed before every interview. After I finished reviewing my notes, I always asked God to allow me to be the best.”

Helping others succeed is a life goal for Jones. Achieving the Gates Scholarship has inspired him to one day provide aid to students searching for opportunities.

“I am motivated to work even harder than ever to make my family and myself proud. I am motivated to use what I’ve learned to help others,” he said. “One day, I hope to create a scholarship foundation that gives students a chance to become the absolute best in their fields. I want to provide equal opportunities not only for African American students but also for all minorities. I believe that many go unnoticed not because they lack skill, but because they lack opportunity. I want to give people the same opportunity that the Gates Scholarship has given me.”

Now that his full ride through school is solidified, Jones can focus on having the best freshman year possible.

“I’m looking forward to this new chapter in my life where I can create a bright future for myself. I want college to be a world of experiences and opportunities for me. I look forward to meeting new friends and being a part of the Alcorn family,” he said. “I also look forward to fulfilling my dream of marching with the Sounds of Dyn-O-Mite Marching band.”

Alcorn prepared Jones’ mentors for success beyond graduation, which is one of several reasons he chose to further his education at the university.

“I chose Alcorn because of the family atmosphere. When I visited Alcorn, it felt like home. Everyone was welcoming, and they cared about my interest,” he said. “My father and my high school band director (Elbert Benton III) graduated from the university and marched in the band. I see that Alcorn instilled character and leadership skills into these two men. I desire the same qualities, so I believe Alcorn is the best fit for me.”


Vicksburg High students participate in political debate



The debate at Vicksburg High School Wednesday morning. (photo by David Day)

Vicksburg High School students held a political debate Wednesday morning on topics that included COVID-19, education funding and privatization.

The students answered questions from moderator Deatra Cable, with the sides representing Mississippi’s candidates for the U.S. Senate, Republican incumbent Cindy Hyde Smith and Democratic challenger Mike Espy.

Each response was a representation of the candidates’ positions using either direct quotes or a synopsis of a candidate’s stated beliefs.

Twenty five local dignitaries, elected officials, and educators attended the event including judges Toni Terrett and Marcie Southerland, North Ward Alderman Michael Mayfield, Warren County Sheriff Martin Pace and Vicksburg Warren School District Superintendent Chad Shealy.

“I enjoyed it,” Mayfield said after the debate, “and it is always good to see young people participate in a political process — and you can tell that they did their homework.”

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Alcorn to hold in-person commencement Nov. 21 for 2020 spring and fall grads



(Photo courtesy Alcorn State University)

Alcorn State University is proud to announce that it will hold in-person commencement ceremonies for the fall and spring classes of 2020 Saturday, Nov. 21, in the Jack Spinks Stadium-Marino Casem Field. The Golden Class of 1970 will also be honored Nov. 21.

Tickets will be required. Masks are mandatory!

“Commencement is a joyous time for the University to celebrate our students’ accomplishments and bid them farewell,” said Dr. Felecia M. Nave, president of Alcorn State University. “This year’s ceremony holds special meaning. As we continue to navigate the global pandemic, COVID-19, we are excited to honor our fall 2020 graduates and also celebrate our spring 2020 and Golden Class of 1970, whose opportunity to walk across the commencement stage was delayed.”

The University will continue to enforce safety protocols to protect the health and safety of the campus community. Hence, tickets will be required for each ceremony. Temperatures will be taken of every person entering the campus at each gate. Graduates’ temperatures will be checked at the assembly area.

Masks will be required for all attendees and participants. No one will be allowed to enter without their mask. The University will provide specific details on safety protocols in subsequent messages regarding the ceremonies.

Commencement ceremonies for the spring Class of 2020 and Golden Class of 1970 will be held at 10 a.m. Commencement ceremonies for the fall Class of 2020 will be held at 2 p.m.

“We are excited to celebrate this milestone in the lives of our graduates,” said Dr. Ontario S. Wooden, provost and senior vice president for Academic Affairs. “I am elated that we are also welcoming back the spring 2020 graduates in order to celebrate them appropriately.”

Wooden noted that the university will hold two commencement ceremonies in the football stadium to promote social distancing and meet arena guidelines. Additional details related to the commencements will be forthcoming by separate communications, and updates will also be posted on a “Commencement” page on the university’s website as they are available.

“Alcorn State University is looking forward to celebrating the many accomplishments of the fall Class of 2020 and spring Class of 2020 with their invited, ticketed guests,” Wooden said.

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Micah’s Mission: providing support and resources for home-schooling



Emily Harber Williams (photo by Matt Williams)

In the last 20 years, the educational option to home-school students has seen significant growth. The reasons that people home-school are as unique as the people making the decisions, but some of the common things that drive families to this option include:

  • Bullying
  • A child’s specific educational needs not being met within their current school
  • A child’s social or psychological needs not being met
  • The difficulty of getting a student’s disability recognized and accommodated
  • A desire to instill a specific worldview or belief system
  • To provide the flexibility for a child to pursue his or her passion
  • Concerns over school safety
  • And now, because of COVID-19, concerns about students’ health.

For parents considering transitioning their child from traditional school to home-school, the process can be quite stressful. Common concerns include which curriculum to use, financial feasibility, lack of socialization opportunities, and uncertainties of students being admitted to and prepared for colleges.

For many of those families in the Vicksburg area, the answers lie with Emily Harber Williams and a place called Micah’s Mission.

In 2016, Williams was a physical education teacher at Bowmar Avenue Elementary School and pursuing a doctorate degree in education from Walden University.

“I was asked to create an innovative model (of a nontraditional school) and make a proposal for my International Educational Law and Policy class assignment,” Williams said, “and then my professor told me my plan could be implemented. So I began (Micah’s Mission) out of my house in 2017.”

Williams said that during that time, she was led to read the Book of Micah from the Bible. That book tells the story of Jesus walking on water and examines the faith one needs to follow Christ with unwavering faith.

“I knew God was telling me to ‘step out of the boat’ and do something to help children succeed,” she said.

Micah‘s Mission School now operates as an independent entity located inside Crawford Street United Methodist Church near downtown Vicksburg. Its mission is to provide home-schoolers in grades K-12 a place to learn and work in a safe, stress-free environment without the rigor and boundaries found in traditional schools. They also offer a resource center for independent online learners.

“Our students are able to learn life skills that will increase their preparedness for the real world after graduation with a faith-based foundation,” Williams said.

“All students are working toward a high school diploma or certificate to be prepared for college or the workforce. We provide a way for students, with or without disabilities, to learn full circle,” she added.

Micah’s Mission has grown to employ three full-time teachers, one full-time volunteer and Williams. They currently serve 27 students. For most students, they utilize, a complete home-school curriculum. They also serve students from other private and public schools with their Dyslexia and Dysgraphia Program and offer after school tutoring.

For more information, interested parents can visit or email Emily Williams at [email protected].

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