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PCS Dismisses Early Today

Because of the impending severe weather threat this afternoon (Emergency Management says it is supposed to be in our area sometime between 3 and 7 pm), both the elementary and secondary campuses will be dismissing early.  K5 4th grade will dismiss at 1:30;  5th and 6th grades will dismiss at 1:45; and the high school campus will dismiss at 2:00.  THERE WILL BE NO EXTENDED CARE TODAY!!!

All after school practices are cancelled for the day.  A decision on the varsity basketball games at Hancock will be made later in the afternoon.

Priority registration is extended through tomorrow (Wednesday, 2/2).

Legislators meet with PRCC students, faculty

Folks at Pearl River Community College heard a little good news Monday – they’ll probably get through the school year without losing any more funding.

Eighteen consecutive months of falling tax revenue meant most state agencies, including community college, were asked to cut their budgets more than once in fiscal 2010.

“The good news is five out of the last six months, we’ve met tax projections,” said Rep. Toby Barker, R-Hattiesburg. “I don’t think there will be mid-year budget cuts, but the growth is microscopic.”

Members of the Forrest County Center PRCC Faculty Association and students met with four area legislators, Sen. Tom King, R-Petal; Rep. Larry Byrd, R-Petal; Rep. Harvey Fillingane, R-Sumrall; and Barker.

“I enjoyed it,” said radiography student Logan Holden of Poplarville. “I thought it kind of gave us a bird’s eye view of the state and what’s going on.”

While the state’s economy grows at a snail’s pace, enrollment at the state’s 15 community colleges is booming, said PRCC President Dr. William Lewis.

Sen. Tom King, R_Petal, left, and Rep. Toby Barker, R_Hattiesburg, talk with Pearl River Community College radiology student Logan Holden of Poplarville Monday while Rep. Harvey Fillingane, R-Sumrall, greets another student during an open house at the Forrest County Center. PRCC Public Relations photo

Statewide, 88,000 students are enrolled in a community college this semester, 11,000 more than are attending a four-year institution, he said. Of the state’s freshmen, 70 percent are attending community college and 97 percent of community college students live in Mississippi, he said.

“We have a lot of needs,” Lewis said. “We continue to grow. We continue to need help. These are the folks we can count on.”

The economy downturn appears to have bottomed out but recovery won’t be quick, Fillingane said.

“As far as real solid growth goes, we’ll  have to have new jobs,” he said.

King agreed recovery will be slow.

“They’re telling us 2014 or 2015 to get to where we were five years ago,” King said.

Byrd predicted South Mississippi will benefit from reapportionment this year as well as economic factors such as expansion of the Port of Gulfport and the opening of the Stion solar panel plant in Hattiesburg.

“Because of the shift in population, we’ll see more lobbying efforts for South Mississippi,” he said.

PRCC speaker says to laugh long and often

POPLARVILLE – Women need laughter and tears to maintain an emotional balance and cope with the changes life brings, the keynote speaker told more than 300 people Saturday at Pearl River Community College for the Women’s Health Symposium.

Sally Baskey of Arlington, Texas, reminded the audience that laughter causes the brain to release endorphins which increase feelings of happiness.

Sally Baskey of Arlington, Texas, was keynote speaker and told the audience laughter is her drug of choice. PRCC Public Relations photo

“You control the dosage,” Baskey said. “That’s what self-medicating is all about.”

Baskey spoke at the fifth annual Women’s Health Symposium, which offered women free health screenings and pampering, including manicures and chair massages; an art walk, break-out sessions on a variety of topics as well as the luncheon where she spoke.

“We’re very proud to have you come to our campus and be part of special events,” Dr. William Lewis, PRCC president, said in welcoming the women.

Health becomes more important to people as they age, he said.

“Quite frankly, we sometimes take our health for granted,” Lewis said. “We hope events like this help put a spotlight on various health issues.”

Women lined up for health screenings, including blood pressure, blood glucose, blood cholesterol and posture analysis. They also stood in line for the chair massages offered by Healing Touch Day Spa in Hattiesburg.

“It was fabulous,” said Alicia Logan of Hattiesburg.

Sharon Ezell, left, and Jean Massey, both of Petal and members of the Hub City Red Hat Dames, get their cholesterol checked Saturday during the Women's Health Symposium at Pearl River Community College. Pricking their fingers are PRCC medical laboratory technology students Kyle Payne of Purvis and Hannah Skipper of Picayune. PRCC Public Relations photo

The luncheon included entertainment by The Voices, PRCC’s jazz vocal ensemble, and more than 100 door prizes. Rachel Fucich of Starkville won the grand prize of a two-night stay at the Beau Rivage Hotel and Casino.

Baskey started her career as a motivational speaker after a year which started when her husband left her.

“My husband was not as happy with me as I was with him,” she said. “I so did not see this coming. I get home one day and the man is gone.”

During the next year, the divorce was finalized, their dream home was sold, her Lexus was totaled and her father died of cancer. The changes left her disliking the adage about a door doesn’t close unless a window opens.

“That much cross ventilation can blow you away,” she said.

But the adage is true, and laughter eases the pain, Baskey said.

“Laughter is a good thing,” she said. “Why is it so undervalued as a way to take care of ourselves? Laughter is my drug of choice; crying is my physical therapy. Life is about 10 percent what happens to us and 90 percent how we react to it.”

Grand sponsor for the symposium was the Lower Pearl River Valley Foundation. Silver sponsors were Firth National Bank of Picayune/Poplarville, Hancock Band and Mississippi Power Foundation. Bronze sponsors were BankPlus, Hattiesburg Clinic, Highland Community Hospital, Southern Bone and Joint Specialists, Wal-Mart Supercenter of Picayune and Wesley Medical Center.

PRCC hosts Mississippi Showchoir Contest in Hub City

More than 30 middle and high school showchoirs will be in Hattiesburg Friday and Saturday, Feb. 4 and 5, for the Mississippi Showchoir contest.

Sponsored by Pearl River Community College, the contest will be held at William Carey University.

PRCC Honors Military

Judges will be Dr. Mark Malone, coordinator of music education in The Winters School of Music at Carey and former choral director at PRCC; Michael Winslow, choral director at Mount Zion High School, Mount Zion, Illinois; Jena Adrianson, choral director at Lawrence Central High School in Indianapolis; and Eric Van Cleave of Lafayette, Ind., producer, musical arranger and director.

Carol Joy Sparkman of the Missisisppi College music faculty will be the solo competition judge. Dr. Jonathan Kilgore, chair of fine arts and choral director at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College, will judge the final showchoir competition.

Middle school showchoir competition begins at 3 p.m. Friday. Schools expected to compete are South Forrest Attendance Center, Petal, Purvis, Pearl River Central, N.R. Burger, Baxterville, Northeast Jones, Clinton, South Jones, Columbia Academy, Jackson Prep and Brandon.

Three Class A high schools – Forrest County AHS, Purvis and Stone will also compete Friday, beginning at 9:10 p.m.

The Voices, PRCC’s jazz ensemble, will present an exhibition performance before awards are given at 10:40 p.m. Friday.

High schools expected to compete Saturday are Wayne County, Lumberton, Columbia Academy, Picayune, Oak Grove, Pearl River Central, Hattiesburg, West Jones, Pascagoula, Clinton, Madison Central, Northeast Jones, Opelika, Ala.; Jackson Prep, Sumrall and Petal. Competition begins at 7:55 a.m. Saturday and continues until 6:35 p.m.

Three women’s groups – Northwest Rankin, Opelika and Petal – will also compete Saturday, beginning at 1 p.m.

PRCC’s showchoir, RiverRoad, will present an exhibition performance at 2:25 p.m. following preliminary competition.

The Voices will perform again at 6:35 p.m. before finalists are announced at 7 p.m. Three soloists and five showchoirs will perform again in final competition, beginning at 7:30 p.m. Awards will be presented at 10:40 p.m.

Admission is $6 on Friday night, $6 for preliminary competition on Saturday and $6 for final competition Saturday night or $10 for both preliminary and final competition on Saturday.

PRCC started the Mississippi Showchoir Contest in 1987 and hosted it in Poplarville until Hurricane Katrina in 2005 destroyed the performance venues. The contest was held in Petal in 2006.

After a two-year break, PRCC revived the contest in 2009 with the cooperation of William Carey University.

LaDona Tyson is director of choral activities at PRCC, and Archie Rawls is chair of the Department of Fine Arts and Communication.

Miss Daisy Rides Again | Encore Performance of Driving Miss Daisy on Valentines Day

Just Over the Rainbow Theatre (JORT) will present an encore performance of “Driving Miss Daisy” at the Saenger Theatre in Hattiesburg on Valentine’s Day, Monday, February 14 at 7:00 p.m.

JORT recently won The Warren McDaniel Award for best production at the Mississippi Theatre Association (MTA) 2011 Festival in Meridian and is raising funds to take the production to competition at the Southeastern Theatre Conference, Inc. (SETC) in Atlanta where they will compete against community theatres from Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, North Carolina, South Carolina Tennessee, Virginia and West Virginia.

Ruth Ann Black and Michael Marks star in "Driving Miss Daisy" submitted photo

The special one night only performance features Ruth Ann Black in the title role; Michael Marks as the chauffeur, Hoke; and Tom Hardy as Daisy’s son Boolie.  Hardy, who also directs the play, said that JORT has never before won the state title.  “We are looking forward to competing against successful theatre groups from other states.  We believe we have an excellent chance of winning the regional competition.  It will take a lot of money and support from our community to get the production to Atlanta and we are hoping to have a large audience to come see this award winning show on Valentine’s Day,” said Hardy.

Deborah Hardy, JORT president and assistant director of the play, commented on the timing of the fundraising performance.  “This show will make a wonderful Valentine’s Day date, and there are excellent restaurants in the area where our patrons can enjoy a fine meal either before or after the show,” said Hardy.

The historic Saenger Theatre is located at 201 Forrest Street in Hattiesburg.  General seating tickets are $10 and will be available at the door.  Sponsorships are still available and may be obtained by calling 601-549-8349.

For more information go to www.

Southern Miss Announces Expansion to Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field

HATTIESBURG, Miss. – The Southern Miss baseball program announced an expansion plan for its playing facility, Pete Taylor Park/Hill Denson Field, at its annual preseason banquet Saturday night at the Thad Cochran Center.

The expansion will add 1,358 new seats, including 220 deluxe chairbacks and 1,138 bench seats, as the length of the grandstand will expand beyond the reaches of each dugout.

In addition to the additional seating, the plan calls for a new weight room to be built under the third-base grandstands.
The project is slated to be ready in time for the 2012 campaign.

For more information on how you can purchase your piece of The Pete, please call the Eagle Club at 601-266-5299.

Drawings of the what the completed expansion should look like can be found here:

Tommy G. Hill, 61, of Petal

Tommy G. Hill, 61, of Petal, died January 28, 2011 at Forrest General Hospital. Memorial services will be held at a later date.

Mr. Hill was a mobile home service technician and of the Baptist faith.

He was preceded in death by his father, Luke Hill; brothers, Robert Hill and George Earl Hill; and a sister, Sonyia Hill.

He is survived by his wife, Bonnie Hill of Petal; son, Michael Edward Hill of Hattiesburg; daughter, Sherie S. Poore and husband, Tommy of Petal; his mother, Janie Hill of Eailey, Texas; sisters, Rebecca Wagner of Corsicana, Texas and Deborah (Gary) Murphy of Eailey, Texas; brother, Roger Hill of Frisco, Texas; and two grandchildren, Benjamin and Sara Beth Poore of Petal.

Jesse LeRoy Brown, a Hattiesburg Native and Military Hero

Jesse LeRoy Brown led a life full of firsts, carving the way for African American men and women to reach new heights years after his life and heroic death. He proved that dreams can be captured, regardless of circumstances, rules, and even race.

As a young Mississippi boy, Jesse always dreamed of flying a plane. He was a smart young man, having made good grades in the segregated Eureka High School of Downtown Hattiesburg, Mississippi. He went on to study engineering at Ohio State University, as one of the first African American students accepted to the institution. Taking a chance on his dreams, Jesse applied and was accepted to the Navy Pre-Flight School in 1946.

As the most notable first of his life, Jesse earned his wings in 1948 as the first African American Naval Pilot and was assigned to serve on the aircraft carrier Leyte during fleet maneuvers in the Caribbean. He was commissioned an ensign by the Navy and joined Fighter Squadron 32 in January of 1949, which joined the Fast Carrier Task Force 77 to serve the United Nations Forces in Korea.

Overcoming obstacles and achieving success was not foreign to Jesse. Instead, he was driven by challenges and determined to make much of his life. As a pilot, Ensign Brown became a section leader who received the Air Medal for daring attacks against enemy lines of communication, transportation, facilities, military installations, and troop concentrations at Wonsan, Chonjin, Songjin, and Sinanju. While aboard the carrier USS. Leyte, Jesse flew a total of 19 combat missions. His commanding offer, Captain Thomas Sisson of Winona, Mississippi, called Brown, “one of the best pilots of the air group.” He was respected by his peers and admired by all who knew him.

Another first came during his 20th mission – Jesse’s plane was hit by enemy gunfire. While he survived the crash, Jesse was trapped in the cockpit, unable to release himself from the burning wreckage. On December 4, 1950, Jesse Brown became the first African American to lose his life in combat during the Korean War. Consequently, Jesse was posthumously awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross for his exceptional courage, airmanship, and devotion to duty in the face of great danger.

As a testament to Jesse’s great impact on his fellow wing mates, Captain (then-Lieutenant junior grade) Thomas J. Hudner crashed his plane alongside Jesse’s in a brave effort to save his friend. Hudner received the Congressional Medal of Honor for extraordinary heroism.

In citation from the Secretary of the Navy, it is stated that “by his unfaltering determination, personal valor, and gallant devotion to duty in the face of hazardous flying conditions, Ensign Brown reflected great credit upon himself and upheld the highest traditions of the United States Naval Service.” What an honor to have at the young, yet courageous age of 24.

In a tribute to Jesse on November 22, 1993 from the Honorary Gene Taylor, former Mississippi Congressman, it is said that the story of Jesse Brown should survive forever. “In 1948 [Jesse L. Brown] accomplished a goal that had never been accomplished by an African American before him. As an aviator and as an officer, he made tremendous strides in the U.S. Armed Forces and saved innumerable lives. We must never forget his unselfish acts of courage.”

After 43 years, Michael Gregory, a Marine who was fighting around the Chosin Reservoir when Jesse offered air support, stated that “Jesse L. Brown died for us, the survivors.”

In 1973, the U.S. Navy named a ship in his honor. The USS Jesse L. Brown served for more than twenty years and was decommissioned in 1994. Today, Jesse continues to be honored for his bravery and his legacy. The USS Jesse L. Brown’s 80-pound bell was sent to the Forrest County Board of Supervisors, and placed on display in the Federal Tax Building in Downtown Hattiesburg, where it currently remains.

Hattiesburg is a special place in the life of Jesse L. Brown. As his first city, it is one filled with honor and respect for this hometown hero. Jesse’s mother, Daisy P. Thorne, and daughter, Pamela Knight, still reside in Hattiesburg. Together, they continue his legacy in the place where it all began.

Throughout the months of January and February, Jesse L. Brown will be honored through an exhibition in his honor at the African American Military History Museum in Hattiesburg. A Pilot Lights the Way exhibition will tribute Jesse L. Brown and Blacks in Aviation through a collection of art, photographs, artifacts, literature, and oral accounts.
A Pilot Lights the Way has been exhibited in several locations throughout Florida, but will be making its debut in Mississippi. Jesse’s family is looking forward to seeing the exhibit in Hattiesburg and are excited about remembering his life together in their hometown. “I will always be proud of him,” said Knight. “As his family, we are honored because of all the sacrifices and contributions he has made, and the honor that he has brought to our family. Displays like the one in Hattiesburg always give my children and me a sense of accomplishment. We continually strive to make him just as proud as he’s made us.”

The African American Military History Museum is a facility of the Hattiesburg Convention Commission. It is located within the Historic USO Club at 305 E. Sixth Street in Downtown Hattiesburg. Open Tuesday through Saturday 10am-4pm, the Museum offers free admission for all guests.  For more information on A Pilot Lights the Way exhibit or the African American Military History Museum, visit or call 601.450.1942.

PRCC’s HEADWAE student overwhelmed by honor

Tears threaten to spill from Cabrini Smith’s brown eyes as she talks about being named Pearl River Community College’s 2011 HEADWAE honoree.

For a single mother who didn’t go to college until she was in her 40s, the significance of being honored in the Missisisppi Legislature is almost more than she can comprehend.

Cabrini Smith

“I feel like for the first time in my life, at 45 years old, I’m proud of myself and setting an example for my girls,” Smith said.

Her daughters, 17-year-old Alexandra and 14-year-old Sarah, will accompany Smith to Jackson on Feb. 3 for the Higher Education Appreciation Day-Working for Academic Excellence events – recognition by both the Mississippi House of Representatives and the Senate, a tour of the Capitol and the awards luncheon.

She also will be accompanied by Catherine Merriken of Oak Grove, instructor of office systems technology at PRCC’s Forrest County Center. As PRCC’s faculty honoree, she selected Smith for the student honor.

“She’s very representative of the non-traditional students that I get,” Merriken said. “She works very hard to get the most out of her education.”

Merriken has taught at PRCC for 24 years.

“Catherine’s been a loyal, dependable outstanding instructor for many years,” said Dr. John Grant, vice president for instruction. “We’re pleased to recognize her for her distinguished service to the college. She’s a very deserving recipient.”

She earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Massachusetts at Amherst and the master’s degree from Suffolk Univeristy in Boston. Merriken taught in Massachusetts for 19 years before moving to Mississippi.

“I’m certainly very honored,” she said. “There are so many outstanding teachers here. I was pleased I was selected from them.”

Merriken is active in community theater in Hattiesburg and in the Friends of the Library organization.

Smith, a New Orleans native, lives in Petal where she raised two adult sons along with her younger daughters. She enrolled in PRCC’s office systems technology program at the Forrest County Center in the fall of 2009 after 18 years as a manicurist, often working more than one job to support her family.

“I’d never been to college,” she said. “It’s been amazing. I feel like I’m setting an example for my girls.”

Smith, who will graduate in May with an Associate in Applied Science degree, was inducted a year ago into Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society.

“I hope to find a good, stable job in the Hattiesburg area as an administrative assistant,” she said.