JCJC PTK student earns national honors

Written By: Teresa McCreery
Email Address: teresa.mccreery@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2016-06-13 19:14:14

ELLISVILLE – Dreams have come true for Jones County Junior College graduate, Natalie Beth Seales of Hattiesburg. As one of 20 students selected for the All-USA Community College Academic Team, the home-school high school graduate has envisioned a new future for herself.
“I can go to Ole Miss now!” exclaimed the excited Seales when JCJC President, Dr. Jesse Smith shared the news she was a New Century Scholar which gave her the chance to be on the national team. “The sky’s the limit with these scholarships and there are so many opportunities now that the financial roadblocks have been shoved down for me.”
With the goal of getting college paid for, Seales’ essay as a nominee for Phi Theta Kappa’s academic scholarship competition in November landed her the top spot in the statewide competition. She would have to wait until April to learn she was also selected to the prestigious, All-USA Community College Academic Team.
“The entire process has been immensely humbling, especially my time at the American Association of Community Colleges conference in Chicago. All of the New Century Scholars (top scoring students from statewide competition) were there, as well as the All-USA Community College Academic Team. It was such an incredible experience getting to meet the other scholars and hear their stories.  I felt very overwhelmed by the caliber of people that I was surrounded by,” said Seales.
With several members of the military on the All-USA Team, Seales said she also felt fortunate to live in a country that grants her the privilege of an education. 

“These freedoms, men and women, just like the ones I was surrounded by in Chicago, have fought and died for have allowed me to have an education and a future. As an American, I have a responsibility to utilize the incredible opportunities given me, and I plan to continue doing that at the University of Mississippi,” Seales shared. 
Her high academic honors and recognition through Phi Theta Kappa have also earned her two more scholarships: The Lyceum Scholarship from the University of Mississippi and the Guistwhite Scholarship through PTK.  Only 15 community college transfer students are offered the most prestigious, full-tuition, Lyceum Scholarship and only 15 students are awarded the $5,000 Guistwhite Scholarship.
“I’m not closed off to any pathway. Ole Miss offered me the best opportunity.  I feel open to whatever happens now, including entertaining other educational options,” said the English major.
Looking back as an incoming freshman at JCJC, Seales was not very optimistic about her educational future because she didn’t score well on the ACT.  With her father, Stephen Seales working in the oil industry, it meant the family moved a lot. Home-schooling was the best option for the family however, she also was not sure how she would compare to her peers.
“We moved eight times with residences in five states growing up, so my mom (Suzanne) home-schooled my older brother Timothy and me. When he needed help in English, my mother hired a University of Southern Mississippi graduate student, Leah Holmes.  She inspired me and made me fall in love with English. Even though I didn’t need her help as much, she instilled a love for writing and vocabulary. She is my mentor even today,” Seales said. “She told me, never to settle and she encouraged me when I was not happy with my ACT score.”
Now the JCJC graduate is entertaining the idea of going to a more prestigious law school along with other post-graduate opportunities because she is a member of the elite, All-USA Community College Academic Team. Approximately 1,700 students were nominated by more than 800 community colleges for this honor. Only one other JCJC student has earned both prestigious honors in JCJC’s history, Zack Warren in 2014.
JCJC’s Rho Sigma PTK chapter advisor, Julie Atwood explained, “I believe Natalie Beth’s strong English background is what helped her reach the top. I have also seen few college students that could divide their time so well and do so with a smile and a cheerful heart. Natalie truly embodies the spirit of volunteerism. JCJC is very proud to have her represent not only the college but also the nation.”
Her academic success and involvement in college and community organizations helped Seales stand out. She works at Presbyterian Christian School’s after-care program and JCJC’s Kid’s College summer camp.  Some of her volunteer projects include being a tutor at JCJC, a camp counselor for her church, and she mentors kids involved in First Presbyterian Church’s Urban Ministry.  Her academic honors include being chosen to be a member of JCJC’s Hall of Fame, Student Government Association Senator for the Humanities Division and the Sigma Kappa Delta English Honor Society. She served as JCJC’s PTK VP of Service, organizing a voter registration drive which helped 232 JCJC students register to vote and 500 people complete a survey about their voting habits for the PTK College Project, Informed Citizens Endeavor.  While making a difference in so many others lives, Seales has also impacted her own future.


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