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MIBEST program at Hinds CC adds up to success for Vicksburg woman

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Mayra Gomez (photo courtesy Hinds CC/April Garon)

Mayra Gomez has always felt comfortable with the language of numbers.

“I’ve liked numbers my whole life,” Gomez said, agreeing that they have been something of a security blanket for her since coming to the United States from Mexico with her parents when she was already 20. “Numbers are just universal, plus I just have a square head like that!”

Gomez, now 41 and a working mother of three, attended high school in Mexico, but said an education there doesn’t translate well toward obtaining a good job in the U.S., particularly when a language barrier is factored in.

“For my husband and me, it was hard learning the language,” she said, adding the internet played a big role in her learning the basics of communication to help support her family along with her husband, who works in construction. “I learned English just based on reading, software I could learn by myself and experiences we would have, such as going to the doctor. I would just look up words I was going to say.”

Gomez still works a restaurant job by day but will soon be broadening her horizons beyond all expectations. This past spring, she earned a career certificate in Business Office Technology from Hinds Community College after having completed the MIBEST program. The program allows adult students to train for a job skill while earning their High School Equivalency certificate at the same time. Students are prepared to be job-ready in six months to a year, training in high-demand areas and earning national certifications.

“I found the program while online, and I called to find out more about how it helps people get a high school diploma,” she said.

This fall, Gomez is enrolled in classes at the Vicksburg-Warren Campus that will land her a technical certificate, then a full Associate of Applied Science degree. After Hinds, she wants to pursue a career in accounting, a goal she said gained steam while working a seasonal job as a tax preparer with a Vicksburg accounting firm. She also counts membership in the campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society as another plus in her social development.

“I still have to take English Composition next semester, but I’m excited,” she said. “I still need to learn more about the language.

All participants in MIBEST have access to support staff, or navigators, whose job it is to help students focus on their studies by advising them on a wide range of life issues – which often include everything from child care to transportation to ways to find rental assistance for those in such a situation.

“My navigators and instructors are my angels here,” she said. “Whenever I feel lost, they guide me and make me feel welcome.

“I consider them more than just instructors – they’re my friends. I was afraid to come back to school mainly due to language. I was wondering what would happen if I said something wrong or wrote something wrong. But they told me, ‘No, don’t be afraid. Just ask and we’ll see what we do to fix it.’”

Instructors and navigators in the program even go so far as to say Gomez is the best MIBEST student ever.

“Mayra entered into the Adult Basic Education program with definite goals set for herself,” said Vanessa Shiers, navigator in the program at the Vicksburg-Warren Campus. “Upon entering the program, she began working hard and showing a kind of determination that was a delight to see in a student.”

Ramona Latham, her instructor in Business Office Technology, found it refreshing Mayra was willing to help fellow students as she herself needed help with class assignments.

“Mayra is the type of student every instructor loves to have in their class,” Latham said.

“When she required assistance, she reached out so that she could get a better understanding of the subject matter. When her classmates required assistance, she was always willing to help. In her three semesters with me, she proved to be dedicated, diligent and filled with compassion.”

As inspiring as she might be for her instructors, her biggest driving force is her children.

“I want my kids to feel proud of me,” she said. “I want to show them it’s not about age to be successful. You can go out and get something that you really like and dream about it. One of my dreams for me is to finish school, get a good job and show they can do it if they decide to do it.

“Recently, I was working on my school work at home and my kids saw my grades. They were like, ‘Mama, you got a 98 or a 100.’ So, I can say if I can get good grades, you can do it, too.”

Education

Vicksburg’s Karen Gamble teaches integrity along with communication

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Karen Gamble (photo courtesy HInds CC)

Karen Gamble hasn’t lost sight of what has produced results for her students and for the workforce for generations.

“I teach communication classes – public speaking, interpersonal communication and business communication,” Gamble said. “In all three cases, students are afraid to communicate. I grade like college, because that’s what it is here. Communication is a scary, scary challenge for these students, particularly in this day and age when they’re all about their technology – their computers, their cellphones, their videos. Then, they have to stand up and present something face-to-face that’s on a piece of paper. They have trouble with that.

“They’re not any less smart than students 20 years ago, but their skillset is different. But, in my class, they have to participate in class and give examples of concepts we’re studying. But, when they finally do it and get a decent grade, there’s nothing like it for me when that light turns on for them. Their reaction is a bit like, ‘Mama, look what I was able to do!’”

Gamble was managing editor of The Vicksburg Post for 23 years and an adjunct instructor on the Vicksburg-Warren Campus until 2013, when she began teaching at Hinds full time.

The kinds of examples she uses to direct class discussion is pulled not just from her own experiences, but from the workforce as a whole.

“In my business communication class, we had talked about integrity and what it is,” she said. “The point we came to is that integrity is typified by the person who puts the grocery buggy back in the stall at the store. Nobody will come after you if you don’t put your buggy back. But integrity is the person who puts it back knowing full well it could hurt someone or get in somebody’s way if they don’t. And the reason they’re putting it back is because it’s the right thing to do.

“One of my students came back to me a week or two after we had that discussion. ‘Miss Gamble, Miss, Gamble,’” she said. ‘I got offered a job where I just interviewed!’ The student told me she was asked straight-up, ‘What’s the best characteristics you can bring to the table if we hire you?’ She told me she said, ‘I have integrity, and I can embrace the challenge.’”

Confident self-presentation is paramount to landing any job opportunity, Gamble said.

“Business people and professional people of all walks of life want professional candidates for their jobs,” she said. “They want people who can communicate. One of the top requirements before someone is hired is that they’re able to communicate. Communication covers writing, speaking, presenting oneself, everything. Our students know this is their community. It’s also my community, so I try to help them do the best they can in our community.”

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Mississippi native elected as Harvard student body president

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(photo courtesy Noah Harris)

A Mississippi high school graduate has been elected as Harvard University’s student body president.

Noah Harris, a 2018 graduate of Oak Grove High School in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, is the first African American to serve in the role at prestigious Harvard University in Massachusetts.

“I’m really grateful that the student body is entrusting me with such a historic and unprecedented moment,” Harris told WDAM. “To make the right moves and to really bring their voices to the forefront. I just never expected that I would be in a position to run for this.”

Harris is a junior and a political science major at Harvard. He served as treasurer on the finance committee in his first two years. His vice president and running mate is neuroscience major Jenny Gan. Both plan on making a difference at the university.

Harris and Gan will be sworn in Dec. 6.

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Education

Corey Wilson is Warren Central’s Teacher of the Year

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Warren Central's Principal Eric Green, left, presents teacher and coach Corey Wilson Sr. with a basket of goodies. (photo courtesy WCHS)

Warren Central High School teacher and football coach Corey Wilson Sr. has won the WCHS Teacher of the Year award for the 2020-2021 school year.

Wilson has been teaching at Warren Central for 19 years and has helped educate thousands of students over the years. He teaches introduction to architecture construction mechatronics and engineering.

Wilson is also a football coach for the school and has helped plenty of young athletes gain athletic scholarships. He is well respected by his students, colleagues and the Vicksburg community.

“A well deserved award for a guy that goes beyond the limit. Proud to be mentored and work with him. Great coach,” said fellow teacher and coach Ced Jackson in a text message.

Wilson will help lead the Vikings football team Friday as they travel to face Tupelo High School.

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