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Hometown Hero

Angela Turner: Helping others ‘is in my blood’

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Angela Turner, disaster program specialist with the Red Cross

All of her life Angela Turner tried to model herself after her mother and her uncle. At a young age she recognized their willingness to help others and since then, she’s worked her hardest to do the same.

“I love being on the field helping others, and I’ve always been that way,” Turner said. “My mom, Barbara Jefferson, was always helping people so I think I get it from her. I also had an uncle who we called Uncle Cappy, and he helped everybody. So I think I get it from those two people. It’s in my blood.”

In 1989, the Vicksburg native started her journey down that path after moving to Texas and working at the Johnson Space Center. After 18 years she decided it was time to come back home where she was employed by the Vicksburg Police Department as a community resource officer and later by the city’s housing department as the housing coordinator.

Today, she celebrates two years with the American Red Cross as a disaster program specialist where she is the direct contact for the Red Cross for people who have undergone different disasters.

“I’m the first line of support for the Red Cross for our clients that we have in 10 different counties,” Turner said, “so I personally have 10 counties that I support, and they all depend on me for Red Cross support. If they have a disaster in the area, which could include a fire, I am the contact person for the Red Cross for those counties.”

After gaining a love for helping people from her family and turning it into a career, Turner tries her best to make serving others a tradition that she can pass on to her only child, Tangela, and her family.

“I get my two grandbabies, Ava and Simone, and my son-in-law involved with volunteering,” she said. “In fact, last Christmas we were here in Mississippi, and we volunteered at the [River City] Rescue Mission to feed people and hand out different handmade gifts we made the night before.”

Turner says that she enjoys her work as a disaster program specialist because it allows her to do what she loves each day.

“Red Cross is the number one volunteer organization. I’d even say they’re world renowned, so I have a lot of volunteers who help me, and we can’t do what we do without our volunteers. I have volunteers in all of my communities who are always willing to assist,” she said.

In her career she comes across so many people who need help that it is almost impossible for her to pick just one experience to demonstrate all she does.

“I’d give a story about helping others but there are just so many,” she said. “It’s just what I do. I have too many stories that it’s hard to pick just one. In general, working in the community fills your days with heartfelt memories.

“When someone is standing before you and all they have left, for the most part, is what they have on, knowing that you were able to help them keeps you going … ready to help the next person.”

Turner believes that in addition to helping others a simple gesture can also make a great impact.

“You want to make people feel special, especially people who don’t have a lot of family,” she said. “There might be some people who don’t even get a hug, so getting a smile and a hug goes a long way.”

Hometown Hero

For Kami May, working with the United Way is a dream come true

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Kami May and her boyfriend, Ethan Mitchell.

Ever since she can remember, Kami May, Vicksburg native and 2011 Warren Central High School graduate, has had a love for helping others. Even when she was in high school, she volunteered with several organizations, and she believes her desire to help others is just a part of who she is.

“I don’t really know where it came from,” May said. “It’s kind of in my DNA. … Just always having that spirit, that give-back attitude and being a people person has always been in my DNA—to be happy and to be giving all the time. I just grew up that way and always knew I wanted to help people.”

May, who studied communications at the University of Louisiana at Monroe, has been working toward her ideal career since she was a teen.

“I had to have an internship to complete my studies, and my search led me to United Way,” May said. “I actually had a church member, Lori Burke, who served on the board at United Way in Vicksburg, and she told me about the organization. I reached out and was able to do my internship here.”

May’s internship lasted two months when the director of marketing and communications left for a new job. Michelle Connelly, executive director of the United Way West Central Division, offered the job to May.

“That began my career in nonprofits, which was my dream goal since graduating high school,” May said.

After three years with the United Way, May continues to do what she loves, and she learns something new each day.

“Working at United Way, every day is different, and every day has a new story to tell, a new opportunity to serve,” May said. “Every day is a new story to add to a book of things that I’ve helped out with. There’s not a day that goes by here that I’m not helping at least one person, and that means a lot to me.”

May knows that wherever life takes her, she will continue to serve.

“I don’t know what the future holds for me,” she said. “I’m still very young, 26. I haven’t figured that out yet, and that’s OK. I do feel like my love for nonprofits will never go away no matter what the future holds. Whether I stay in nonprofits or leave them, I know that I will continue to give, I will continue to advocate, and I will continue to volunteer.”

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Education

Terrance Burks: sparking a love for STEM in students

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L to R: John Starritt and Terrance Burks

STEM fields—science, technology, engineering and mathematics—are full of surprises. They offer endless career positions, opportunities and success stories.

Professor Terrance Burks is one of those success stories. 

Born and raised in Vicksburg, Burks admits that he didn’t start college with an interest in STEM subjects.

“I had no idea what an engineer was when I was in high school,” Burks said. “I would hear my friends talk about their parents as an engineer, but I had no idea what they did.

“So this young lady, [who] was my entire heart when I was younger, and I were talking, and she said ‘I want to be a chemical engineer one day.’ I replied ‘Oh really?’ I liked her and thought I’d do the same.”

While pursuing an education in engineering, Burks had many second thoughts regarding his choice of discipline. It was his parents who kept him focused. 

“Back in my day, you couldn’t just give up,” he said. “My parents came too far for me to give up, so even if I didn’t like it, I had no choice but to keep going.”

Burks went on to graduate from the University of Colorado. Shortly after crossing the stage, career opportunities began to cross his path.

“I went to high school here, and then I went to college in Colorado and received my bachelor’s in chemical engineering and petroleum refining, and master’s degree in mathematics and computer science,” he said. “I then went to work with Intel.”

At Intel, Burks traveled throughout the U.S. and internationally, first as a graduate rotation engineer for seven years, and then as an operations manager in Portland, Ore., for two years.

“After completing some other programs, I was asked if I wanted to do a summer internship in Stockholm, Sweden. Initially, I said no because I didn’t have a reason to go, but they’d already put my name into the hat for the position,” he said. “So long story short, it was already paid for, and I completed the internship and spent almost 10 years in Sweden.”

Burks completed his graduate studies at Stockholm University.

Despite a lack of interest when he set foot in the field, Burks prospered and fell in love with his work. When he came back to Vicksburg in 2016, he was given an opportunity to show the city’s youth how STEM could play a beneficial role in their lives.

“When I came to Vicksburg, I met Dr. Robert Carr. I was doing some initial work with the Thurgood Marshall College Fund before I came to Alcorn,” Burks said. “I was sitting in the Alcorn Branch in Vicksburg, and Dr. Carr, who was the dean of the education department, I think he was watching me for my work ethics.

“He pulled me aside one day and just asked me some questions, and based upon my response and my excitement for education, particularly in the STEM field, he asked me if I would work for Alcorn under him. I never in my wildest imagination thought that I would be in a university setting. I’m a researcher by heart, but sometimes God allows you to go out and to see how your work can be applicable to people.”

In addition to being a professor at Alcorn State University, Burks has also served as the co-director of the Thurgood Marshall Foundation’s Vivian Burey Marshall Academy, which allows students in sixth through 10th grades to learn more about STEM by competing in a variety of competitions all over the U.S.

Burks credits his amazing support system and his ever-growing faith for keeping him strong minded throughout every situation he encounters.

“I can get through anything if I have prayer and God,” Burks said. “I have the ability to strip who I am and pick up what I need to to navigate myself through this world.”

As a professor at Alcorn State University, he dedicates his life to the younger generation and does his best to spark an interest in STEM subjects with them.

Burks proves that hard work and consistency pays off.

“Never compare yourself to anyone else,” he said. “I cannot compare myself to anyone because we all have a different purpose, and we all will have a different outcome in life.”

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Hometown Hero

David L. Hubbard Foundation honors a life of service

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David L. Hubbard lived a life of service.

After graduating from Rosa A. Temple High School, Hubbard joined the U.S. Army. Later, he met Tommy Lee Jones Wright, who would become his wife and mother of his child, Shonna Morton-Hubbard. Hubbard was deployed to Germany for several years and upon returning to his hometown, Vicksburg, he became a recruiter for the Army. 

This new career led him to work closely with the Warren Central and Vicksburg High School Reserve Officer Training Corps, or ROTC, programs. Hubbard developed a love for the program and worked to help the students until his death in 2007.

To continue his legacy with the ROTC programs, Shonna Hubbard-Morton decided that she would create a foundation in honor of her father.

“The foundation is meant to help ROTC and NJROTC students,” said Hubbard-Morton. “When I moved here, my father was still 100 percent military, and he used to let a lot of young people know what kind of lifestyle they could have in the military. He didn’t go to college right away, but when he was in the army, he did take a few courses. So, years after he passed, in 2016, I thought that since I was an only child and a military brat, I’d create the David L. Hubbard Foundation to create scholarships for JROTC students.”

Today, the foundation is in its fourth year of service and Hubbard-Morton hopes it continues to grow and help more students by awarding scholarships.

“Nine students have received a scholarship so far, and I really want to expand and help students in band, football players—all students really,” she said. “Also, I hope that students who received scholarship awards in the past can come out to our New Year’s Ball, if they’re old enough, and we can start a yearbook.”

Each year, the foundation hosts several annual events to raise funds.

“The New Year’s Eve Ball is our first and last largest event of each year,” she said. “We have that at the Vicksburg City Auditorium, and the next thing we have is in March, and we try to do a fish fry during spring break when people are coming in. Then, between June and July, people bring their clothing to me, and I sell it, and that’s another fundraiser.”

The foundation takes donations year round.

“Mayor George Flaggs and his staff have always supported our foundation financially, and we’re always taking donations,” she said. “Our headquarters are located behind Guarantee Bank at 83 Ridgeview Acres Road, and people can always drop things off there, or contact me to make a donation.”

For more information or to donate to the David L. Hubbard Foundation, email Shonna Morton-Hubbard at s_nails@yahoo.com, or visit the foundation website.

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