Forrest County Justice Court Judge, Gay Polk-Payton inspires JCJC students

Written By: Teresa McCreery
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Date Submitted: 2016-02-16 20:34:37

ELLISVILLE – “Education is more than classes,” declared Forrest County Justice Court Judge, Gay Polk-Payton to the students and guests at Jones County Junior College’s Black History Celebration. The featured speaker explained education is really a collection of life experiences as she issued a challenge to the audience in an effort to see change in themselves and the world.

“Understand that your education is not just what you’re getting here at Jones Junior College. It’s not just what you got in high school. It’s the totality of your circumstances; it’s everything. If your education is going to make a difference you have to take everything, your morals and your values…everything you’ve been gifted with, everything you’ve been cursed with. Take the totality of the circumstances and deal with what you got to deal with,” said the judge, attorney, singer, author, faculty member, radio host and motivational speaker.

The Hattiesburg native encouraged the audience to not just gain a “cluster of semester hours” but to get an education that makes a difference and to use all of it. She explained that parents have to begin instilling life lessons from the beginning, at birth and it’s up to the individual to then learn from what life deals them, good and bad. Using her 17 year-old son Kobe as an example, Polk-Payton explained babies learn how to manipulate to get what they want, like milk or mom.

“Kobe started crying…I checked his diaper because he had just eaten. When I picked him up out of the swing, he stopped crying. He attempted to manipulate me but I put him in the swing so he can be strong. …You can’t think they are too young to learn. You have to teach them,” she warned students.

She also used her personal situations as examples of turning adversity and personal traits that were considered problems into assets. A quick witted girl with a mouth, she said of herself, got her in trouble as a young girl but she turned that potential problem into a successful career.

“I was horrible! Back then it kept me in the principal’s office….This mouth could have ruined me but I learned how to harness it. My mother lovingly harnessed it…so I could learn how to do what I needed to do to be effective…. It could’ve destroyed me if I didn’t use it the right way,” said Judge Polk-Payton.

Another form of adversity is tragedy. The unexpected death of her father, three weeks before graduating from law school and the loss of her mother 17-months later, when she was two months pregnant could have overwhelmed the multi-talented judge. However, she said learning how to deal with all of her adversities helped her deal with the loss of her parents and her son’s medical issues, when he was diagnosed with soft tissue sarcoma.

“Losing my parents was the most horrible tragic thing that happened to me. I realized in retrospect, I had other things that happened in my life. God was preparing me for that ultimate loss that I never could have handled in my life….He had grown me and stretched me and taught me how to handle adversity on different levels,” shared Polk-Payton.

Learning how to deal with adversity, she continued teaches us how to be better human beings. Dwelling on the loss of loved ones is not what they want, she explained.

“This is how I bless my mother’s memory; by being successful and by doing things she taught me how to do-being the person she raised me to be. I don’t bless her by hiding things away she taught me or that remind me of her. You have to harness (adversity). Everything you go through in life is a part of your education.”

As a judge, she sees the effects of not dealing with peer pressure. She reminds kids, “You have to take love with your discipline because the world is going to give you cold, hard consequences. Your teachers aren’t trying to take your joy or fun away. They’re trying to teach you how to harness your abilities so you’ll be productive for your future,”

Being responsible for your own actions she emphasized, is even more important as you grow up and are supervised less. If things don’t work out like you planned, there’s a reason she said confidently. The self-confessed “control-freak” said she realized during her son’s four surgeries, 31 radiation treatments and seven rounds of chemotherapy, nothing was in her realm of control.

“I don’t control anything. I can be humble, as a judge, as a singer, because I don’t have any power over anything. “

JCJC student, Tyesha Wolverton of Ellisville said she was inspired by the judge’s life lessons speech. With a career she hopes will take her “on the road” as a truck driver, she explained how Polk-Payton has inspired her to do more.

“Everybody goes through the same things. Quitting is not an option. She inspired me and changed me. I will not quit on my dreams and goals!” said the freshman.

Polk-Payton said her goal is to help others see the most valuable aspect of an education: An education can make a difference, only if all of your life experiences are included so there’s also understanding of how someone fits into the big picture.


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