Growing up as the daughter of a principal in Silver City, MeLinda Andrus knew what it was like to be the school’s biggest cheerleader.
At each stop in her career, Andrus has actually helped cheer on each school from her stint at MDJC as a cheerleader and homecoming queen, Indianola Academy as a cheer coach and now back to Mississippi Delta Community College.
“I love Mississippi Delta,” Andrus said. “My degree is actually Medical Laboratory Technology (from MDJC and Delta State) and I worked at the hospital in Indianola for several years. When I had my twins, I stayed at home and did contract work.”
She soon was drawn to the academic world and worked as an assistant to Indianola Academy’s Headmaster Sammy Henderson for 15 years.
“I coached cheerleaders there as well,” she said. “Then I came to Mississippi Delta and I’m the recruiter/advisor for the Career Technical Education Department and I coach the cheerleaders there as well.”
When she first came to MDCC, she had no intention of coaching the cheer team, but when her late sister, Skeetie Griffin, asked her to take over, Andrus took the baton.
“Skeetie had the cheerleaders at Mississippi Delta for about 19 years. When she got so sick with pancreatic cancer and knew she wasn’t going to survive it, she asked me to please consider coaching the cheerleaders,” Andrus said. “That was her first true love. She absolutely loved it and had made such an impact on so many girls.”
At first, she said no but reconsidered after her sister’s passing.
“I guess the Lord spoke to me or Skeetie spoke to me, and I thought to myself, ‘I’m going to get these girls and do everything to get this program on track and do everything I can to make her proud.’”
In only her second year at the helm, Andrus has added a co-ed flair to the team with three male cheerleaders.
“Two from Indianola and one from Mobile, Alabama – they are all athletes. Sebastian Harris from Indianola Academy was the outstanding senior athlete at IA and the leading running back in the state. I adore him and he’s wonderful,” she said.
These days she has cheerleader tryouts as the coveted cheer positions have scholarship money that’s worth cheering about.
“My goal is to get them to College Nationals and make Mississippi Delta proud of them. They have come a long way,” she said. “You just never say never.”
She has dreams of putting together cheer camps to bring in Delta-area cheerleaders and show them the MDCC Trojan life and sharpen their skills.
“We want to bring in high school and junior high cheerleaders and show them our facilities,” she said. “I want people to see that and want to be part of that and see the opportunity. If they want to get to the next level, I can help them do that.”
Andrus knows the success of the team and her coaching comes in part from the backing they all get from the MDCC administration.
“I have such support from the administration. They are all on board and they want the program to succeed. It’s been amazing,” she said. “I loved Mississippi Delta when I was there. I was in band and I was homecoming queen.”
Putting her full support behind the Trojans, Andrus moved to Moorhead to be closer to the school she loves and supports.
“I recruit for the whole college and I just love it,” Andrus said. But she fights the battle of educating folks on the benefits of community college – academically, financially and socially.
“The first mindset is ‘no, not a community college for my child.’ A community college’s career technical – that’s where your jobs are. A student can actually come to MS Delta and get into Phi Theta Kappa and get a scholarship that pays their tuition when they transfer to a four-year university if they meet the criteria. That’s huge. My son did that and everything was paid at MS State. There’s so many opportunities there. They can learn about college life and figure out what field they want to be in.”
Andrus carries on the work her late sister did that touched so many lives as well.
“I have so many former cheerleaders come up to me and say without Skeetie helping them they don’t know what they would have done. If you cheer at MS Delta, it’s a full scholarship – room, board and tuition.”
Working in what is commonly referred to as “votech,” Andrus explains its much more these days.
“It’s high tech now,” she said. “We’ve got all of the GPS locators for our farm programs, Precision Ag, we’ve got all the new programs that are out. We were awarded industrial maintenance. In our health science we have a Physical Therapy Assistant program and I think there’s just one other college that has that.”
Andrus touts the school’s smaller classes and advisors with much more input to help students be successful.
She attributes this to the school’s growth.
For 2018-19, Andrus said MDCC was ranked No. 1 in the state out of all community colleges with a 3.2 percent enrollment increase.
MDCC also led its district in enrollment growth during that time.
“There are people waiting in line for our programs,” she said.
Outside of the classroom, Andrus helps her students get involved in the local and surrounding communities through service projects.
“With the Animal Shelter and the church so they give back as well,” she said.
When Andrus isn’t on campus cheering and promoting and recruiting, she spends time at the Moorhead Methodist Church and she enjoys being outside finding a lake or stream to put her kayak in for a run.
“We kayak around the different areas in the Delta and I did do the Colorado River with a friend,” she said. “We hang out in the lakes and the refuges.”
She also works with local dog rescues and loves Indian artifacts.
“I go hunt arrowheads all of the time,” she said. “After my sister passed away I had to get out of the house and I took my two LabroDoodles – Huck and Finn – and went to my son’s farm. I was walking and found an arrowhead and got addicted. My father did that growing up but I didn’t grasp how cool it really was back then.”
She also “adores her two grandchildren” and spends as much time with them as possible.
Finding history and cheering on her co-horts, companions and cheer team, Melissa Andrus keeps the Trojan spirit alive and well at MS Delta Community College.