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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.”

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 a 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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COVID-19

Vicksburg Warren School Districts reports three new COVID-19 cases

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For the week of Nov. 2 through Nov. 6, the Vicksburg Warren School District reported two new COVID-19 cases and four individuals quarantined due to possible exposure to the virus in the same time period.

Cases were reported at the following schools:

Warren Central High School
Two new positive cases – teachers/staff

Warren Central Intermediate
Four quarantined – teachers/staff

For the prior week, Oct. 26 through Oct. 30, the district reported one new COVID-19 case, a student, at River City Early College High School.

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Education

Local educator ignites passion for science and dance in VWSD students

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April Green lives her life by a quote from William Butler Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” And she is lighting students’ fires everywhere from dance floors to classroom laboratories. 

Green, a native of Vicksburg, said she has been a dancer since the age of four, but her interest in science and her desire to teach didn’t manifest itself until her high school years at Vicksburg High School. 

“There were three teachers that truly touched me; Annie Straughter, Alice Jones, and Susan Czaika. They brought out the best in me and encouraged my passion for science. They also had a way of inspiring all of us in their classes and that’s what made me first think about becoming a teacher.” 

It was in high school as a member of the dance team Gator Girls that Green’s love of dance also thrived. 

“We (the Gator Girls) went to a dance camp and a few of us were chosen to dance at a New Orleans Saints game”, Green said. “It was at that game that I knew my future didn’t lie in just science and teaching. Dance would be a big part of it, too.” 

After graduating from VHS, Green enrolled at Alcorn State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in child psychology. She soon followed that with a master’s degree in education from Jackson State University. 

Green began her educational career at Vicksburg Junior High as an 8th grade science teacher. That took care of two of her passions, but Green couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something in her life was missing. 

Green said, “I knew I wanted to open a dance studio, but I was scared to take the risk. I went back and forth with myself for a few years. I questioned whether I’d have the necessary time to invest in it and whether it would be financially wise. But my family finally sat me down and was like, ‘Look. This is what you want to do and we believe in you. We support you, so go try.’” The April Green Dance Company opened in 2015. 

As the AGDC was getting off the ground, Green’s career in education was also on the rise. Green was offered the position of lead teacher at Sherman Avenue Elementary which she held for five years before being named lead teacher at Vicksburg High School for the 2019-2020 school year. 

As rewarding as those positions were, Green missed the classroom. “I just wanted to be in a place where I could do for students what inspirational teachers had done for me. I wanted to make science come alive for kids.” 

The opportunity to do just that presented itself when Green learned that the Career and Technical Education (CTE) school needed a teacher for their Biomedical classes. Green got the position. 

CTE is a program through which Hinds Community College Vicksburg-Warren Campus, through its Career and Technical Center, offers high school career and technical courses to the secondary students within the Vicksburg-Warren School District. 

“The students in the Biomedical program have the chance to take on real world challenges through case studies and real life experiences. They’re working with the same tools used by professionals in hospitals and labs. They’re taking real case studies and working together to develop solutions,” Green said. “It’s incredible to see high school students so on fire for new knowledge and skills. And to know that I’ve had a part in lighting that fire is beyond rewarding.” 

William Butler Yeats would likely agree.

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