For 14 out of the 15 years of its existence at Gentry High School, the Jobs for America’s Graduates-Mississippi program has had students to travel to the nation’s capitol as participants in the National Student Leadership Academy.
“And not the same ones each year,” boasted Jobs for Mississippi Graduates Specialist Bettye Sims-Hawkins.
Sims-Hawkins announced this year’s participants on Friday during the 15th annual initiation and installation ceremony held in the school’s gymnasium. She received a standing ovation for her efforts and success record with the students.
The Rev. Herron Wilson delivered thoughts on this year’s theme, “It’s our winning season.” He told the crowd of students that they each have a “champion” within them and encouraged them to raise up that winner within, even when they do not feel as if it exists.
Wilson referenced the late Pat Summitt, former head coach of the University of Tennessee Lady Volunteers and called her “one of the greatest champions the world has ever known.” He extolled on her longevity as a coach, her winning record, and his respect and admiration for her.
He talked about her philosophy of life. When asked what her main keys to success were, Wilson said Summitt responded, “Regarding competition, there is always someone who can do it better than you. You will face situations in which you may not be as talented as the person next to you. That’s when the champion, the competitor in you must come alive.”
Wilson also shared what Summitt surmised was her winning edge. “She responded, here’s how I’m going to beat you. I’m going to out work you; I’m going to out think you. That’s it and that’s all there is to it,” he said. He continued by explaining how he used Summitt’s way of thinking to get a job as a news anchor although he had no professional training even after the hiring agent told him there were no open positions.
“You must outthink and outsmart the competitors, if you’re going to win the game of life,” Wilson said. He added that it is harder to stay on top than to make the climb. “You must continue to set new goals. Don’t become comfortable, don’t become complacent, don’t settle for the status quo, continue to dream bigger dreams, climb higher mountains and you’re destined to come out a winner.”
“Life is a mixture of a whole lot of things,” Wilson added. He told them there would be good and bad days, times when things work out and times when they will not. “When those days come, get back in the game,” he said. He pronounced the students as “winners and trailblazers” who are wise and talented.
He concluded his remarks by infusing his version of the “Be-Attitude.” He surmised, “And with all of these be’s I’ve got going for me and you’ve got going for you… I can be, you can be, we can be anything we want to be.”
In addition to Wilson, the Rev. Edward Thomas, SCCSD board president presented the opening remarks followed by a welcome from Mayor Steve Rosenthal. Judges Gwendolyn Pernell and Latrice Westbrooks conducted the initiation and installation ceremony assisted by retired District 31 Rep. Sara Richardson Thomas and Robin Rosenthal.
Former JMG students Kaitlyn Thomas and Ja’Shayla Hunter assisted them and Carledia Jones served as mistress of ceremonies. There were musical performances by the GHS band and the celebrated GHS choir.