JCJC’s Bobcat Math League earns Governor’s Award

Written By: Teresa McCreery
Email Address: teresa.mccreery@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2014-03-20 14:31:47

ELLISVILLE –The Mississippi Association of Partners in Education recognized Jones County Junior College’s Bobcat Math League (BML) as one of the state's top school-community partnership programs during the 2014 Governor's Awards luncheon. The 2013 competition style Bobcat Math League, involving 20 high school teams over a six-week period, received the University/College Partnership Award at the 12th Annual Governor’s Awards for Outstanding School-Community Partnerships. MAPE founding director, Liz Hudson was the driving force behind the creation of the Governor’s Awards during the administration of Gov. Ronnie Musgrove.
“Receiving the Governor's Award is a great honor for all involved: JCJC faculty and administration, high school participants, and community sponsors,” said Jessica Bunch, Bobcat Math League Commissioner and JCJC math instructor. “This award speaks to the dedication of those involved, as well as the importance of all of those involved working together to accomplish common goals, like increasing math interest and outcomes among high school students, increasing the number of high school students entering college, and fostering community relations.”
JCJC President, Dr. Jesse Smith added, “I’m especially happy more students are concerned about how they can capitalize on their current mathematical capabilities and are taking advantage of the opportunity to learn more. This is very encouraging.”
The Bobcat Math League mimics an athletic league in almost every way, and in addition, capitalizes upon the requirement that every high school student should be proficient in math to successfully graduate, Bunch notes. Each team competes within its division with the goal of making the play-offs in post-season competition. Monetary awards, trophies, scholarships and bragging rights provide the students’ and high school math teacher’s incentive to win, just like in athletics.
“There’s a noticeable excitement about learning math and it’s just as exciting to watch students compete,” said Bunch. “There are rivalries and marked improvements in math scores, which is another incentive to participate.”
According to the Commissioner, more high school students are interested in being on their schools’ team. High school math subject area final averages and ACT math scores of the “mathletes” improved by 2 percent and 4.4 percent respectively from prior to post 2013 math league participation. Financially, donations have increased from private and community donors totaling $66,000 in 2013, and the number of people following the Bobcat Math League on Facebook has grown to more than one thousand.
Mississippi Power Foundation, one of the biggest community donors, said the company supports this academic competitive program because of the impact it has on many levels.
“We know educators can’t do it by themselves. Mississippi Power feels strongly about supporting the League as an investment in the community. Programs like JCJC’s Bobcat Math League help ensure our future employees will be more qualified and we want them to in turn, to re-invest in the community. Without a quality education our product and our community can’t be as good,” said Rex Gilbert, Laurel District Manager for Mississippi Power.
Magnolia Realtor and retired JCJC math instructor, Sandra Wright is also a community sponsor with personal reasons for donating to the program.
“I am proud of this program and what it’s accomplished mostly because I taught Jessica Bunch. I knew she’d be a great teacher and I wanted to support her. I’m confident she’s going to continue to do great things for the college and community,” said Wright.
Jones County Economic Development Authority president, and one of the sponsors of the BML, Mitch Stennett said he is excited about JCJC’s award-winning Bobcat Math League.
“The Governor’s Award is a great accomplishment and it can only get better for the students. I congratulate Jones and all of the partners on this accomplishment,” said Stennett.
Community leader and Laurel realtor, Chris Wilson is credited with securing private and community sponsors, as well as fanning the flames of community interest in the Bobcat Math League. He played an integral role in helping create the vision for the athletic-competition style format, which extended the original one-day event into six weeks and a play-off season.
“It is my passion to improve the quality of public education in my home state. It seemed to me from the beginning if I could improve the future of a lot of young people, I would be paying back my home state that helped me have a wonderful life and career. This is also a way to make my daughter, who is a public education teacher, proud. I decided I was going to try help so this is personal, in a way,” Wilson said.
Looking toward the future, Wilson hopes the Math League will be discussed as much, and is as important as football.
“I have a dream that on Friday morning during the Math League season, moms and dads, and the community will read about the week’s results and want to know why their team is losing or not the champion. That’s when I know we’re really successful, when the community wants to see change and there’s more success in academics.”

The Governor’s Award seems to further validate the success and importance of the League for all involved. However, JCJC math instructor, Bob Stevens also has some lofty goals for the League’s expansion.
“The Governor’s Award is an affirmation of the positive aspects of the League.  I hope the League can be duplicated in other districts with oversight by other community colleges.  At some point, we can have district playoffs to be followed by regional playoffs (North and South State), to be followed by State Play-offs,” said Stevens.
JCJC Dean of Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Divisions, Candace Weaver sees a global impact with programs that enhance academic prowess. 
“Our nation and our local economy depend on our students to engage in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) related activities in order to gain a better understanding of math and increase their mathematics knowledge. Locally, we’re doing our part because the Bobcat Math League affords our students this opportunity.”
For now, Bunch sets her sites on getting more high schools involved with the BML, knowing this exposure will give more students the chance to expand their mathematical knowledge and other opportunities on the horizon.
The JCJC Bobcat Math League and the original one-day competition received overwhelming support from sponsors and community donors who provided prizes and monetary support including: Joe Frank Sanderson (CEO of Sanderson Farms), Sanderson Farms, the Chisholm Foundation, the EDA of Jones County, Howard Computers, Mississippi Power Company, Sandra Wright-Magnolia Realtors, Domino’s Pizza, Corner Market, Wal-Mart, Alexander’s Hardware, Magnolia Bank, First State Bank, Community Bank, Trustmark Bank, Jefferson Medical, Foil-Wyatt Architects.


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