Rotary Club of Jackson names 2018 Rotary Scholarship Winners

Monday, June 4, 2018


Brooks Buchanan, Rotary president and assistant general counsel, C Spire, called the meeting to order and welcomed everyone.  The invocation was given, the pledge of allegiance and four-way test were recited and the many guests and visiting Rotarians were welcomed.

Sandra Shelson, executive director, The Partnership for a Healthy Mississippi and Rotary Scholarship Committee Chair, said she has the best job at Rotary, as she gets to call the scholarship recipients and let them know they have won.  She thanked Mason Williams and Scott Day for their help to get ready for the applicant interviews which took place during noon for three consecutive Mondays.  She thanked the scholarship committee members for their dedication to the process of choosing the 2018 scholars. Committee members must commit to attending all of the interviews to participate in the decision process. Shelson thanked Dr. Heber Simmons, who not only started the scholarship program in 1989, but who continues to serve on the committee, interviewing candidates and serving as a mentor for the next four years for one of this year’s scholars.  She also thanked Tina Clay, Jewell Hillery and Adrian Ware for serving as mentors to this year’s scholars.

Shelson thanked all the members for their financial support of $50 per quarter for the scholarship fund. Even some of the Young Professional members who are not required to participate do so anyway. As that amount does not completely fund the $64,000 needed annually for 16 scholars ($4,000 for four new scholars per year for each of their four years of college) she also thanked those who give more than that to make sure all scholarships are fully funded.  She invited others to contribute additionally to this 501(c)3 fund as well. She then introduced the 2018 scholars and invited them to the podium to speak.

-Stephanie Armendariz, a graduate of Northwest Rankin High School, related how happy she was to receive this scholarship as she has wanted to become a dentist, “a tooth puller,” since she was a little girl.  She is willing to sacrifice and work hard to make her dream come true.  She will attend Hinds Community College where she will be in Phi Theta Kappa, Ole Miss where she will major in biology and then dental school.  She said if she can pass AP Chemistry, which she did this year, she can do anything. She thanked her parents for their hard work and support and has advised her little brother to also reach for the stars.  Her mentor will be Dr. Heber Simmons, Jr., DDS, Simmons and Young Pediatric Dentistry.

-Jaumonie Crain, a graduate of Puckett High School, said he gives God all the glory and praise and thanked RCJ for this opportunity. He thanked his high school counselors and teachers and his aunt and uncle who are his godparents, but more importantly, adopted him and his sister when his mother passed away when he was 12, when they already had four children.  He humorously related his life as the only male child with five sisters. He ultimately hopes to obtain a PhD in education and become a teacher and coach.  He will start by attending Jackson State University where he will major in health/physical education with a minor in psychology. He said this scholarship has opened doors for him and given him hope for a brighter future. His mentor will be Bishop Adrian Ware, CEO/senior pastor, The Church Triumphant Global.

-Kaitlyn Garner, a graduate of Pearl High School, thanked her mother and counselors who encouraged her to complete the scholarship application.  She has dreamed of going to college and is eager to continue community service work as she has done in high school, as it is very important for her to give back by helping others. As her family has experienced major medical expenses, she is appreciative of having this opportunity to realize her dream, become independent and give back to her family.  She will attend Ole Miss and double major in journalism and nursing. She thanked Jewell Hillery, director of development and marketing, The Redeemer’s School, for being her mentor.

-Barry Wyn Grantham, a graduate of Pearl High School, thanked his family, his counselors and his principal who was in attendance.  He will attend the University of Southern Mississippi and major in athletic training and then pursue a master’s degree.  His goal is to work in the athletic training field on the college level.  He is passionate about sports and wants to support athletes in all aspects of their development.  He hopes to stay in Mississippi and give back to his state. Tina Clay, State Farm Insurance agent, will be his mentor.

Shelson introduced Heather Giles who was a 1993 recipient of the RCJ scholarship.  She graduated with honors from USM where she majored in speech.  She said the volunteer tutoring she was required to complete helped her decide to become a teacher.  In 2015 she was named teacher of the year at Pearl High School. When she was in high school, her family had many medical bills and she knew she had to receive financial assistance if she was going to attend college.  She graduated #41 at Forest Hill High School.  Honors status was given to the top 40.  Then-Mayor Frank Melton gave a speech at her school and ended by having them repeat “I can be anything I want to be. I want to be somebody.”  She took that to heart and kept working to get her ACT score up.  Turned down many times for other scholarships, she was granted an interview by RCJ.  She recalled the tough questions she received from Dr. Heber Simmons and the committee.  She gave honest answers relating how much she needed this.  Her first speech ever was at the RCJ, like the scholars today were doing, where she announced she was going to Hinds Community College.  Afterwards Rotarian Dr. Clyde Muse, who had been in the audience, introduced himself to her.  It was then she learned he was the president of HCC.  With his help, she was able to graduate and go on to become a teacher.  She closed by saying, “Because of the Rotary Club of Jackson I am somebody!  Thank you for helping me become who I am.”  She received a standing ovation.