The first JCJC Health Care Assistants of the MIBEST program graduate

Written By: Teresa McCreery
Email Address:
Date Submitted: 2017-06-15 15:05:36

ELLISVILLE – For the first time since the Mississippi Integrated Basic Education and Skills Training program was implemented at Jones County Junior College two years ago, six students graduated from the new Health Care Assistants program. The recent graduates included Valerie Brown of Ellisville; Kelvin Clark of Ellisville; Katharine Jacobson McGhee of Moselle; Oshanna Simmons of Laurel; Octavia Williams of Shubuta and Matthew Williamson of Seminary. According to MIBEST program director, Wendy Evans, all of these students have barriers they had to overcome to make it through the program.

“I’m so proud of all of these students.  Some have young families to care for and they work. However, they were determined to get their high school equivalency diploma and change their futures. Additionally, most of the group has aspirations to continue their education and training in the medical field,” said Evans.

McDonald’s restaurant employee, Kelvin Clark was inspired to go back to school because of a friend with muscular dystrophy and his 10-month old baby. After earning his high school equivalency diploma through JCJC’s MIBEST program, he decided to enter the medical field.

“I want to take care of children with disabilities,” said Clark.  “Graduating from the HCA program gives me hope for a better job and financial future to support my family. This summer, I plan on taking medical coding and apply for the practical nursing program.”

Evans explained each of the HCA graduates will take a test and become a Certified Nurse Assistant after completing the HCA program.  Along with the CNA national credential, the MIBEST program provides opportunities for students to earn a Silver Level Career Readiness Certificate, employability skills training, CPR certification, and job experience. This excellent combination of education, training and work experience ensures each student is ready for employment after graduation.

“The job market for a CNA is phenomenal in our area.  Hospitals and nursing homes constantly need qualified CNA’s.  Our students can now meet those needs and they can get a great job earning a good, family sustaining wage,” said Evans.

This pilot program equips qualified applicants with a high school equivalency degree, job training and a certificate in one of the MIBEST approved programs like welding, health care assistant, commercial truck driving, commercial and residential maintenance, business office systems and health care data technology.

Laurel’s Tyler Anderson chose the welding pathway to success. The 22-year old was basically “written-off” by educators according to his mother before he dropped out of school in the ninth grade.  The Honda Cycles mechanic saw the MIBEST program as an opportunity to get a better job, but he had to figure out how to juggle taking classes at JCJC with being a volunteer firefighter, driving a tow truck and working his day job.

“I worked from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every day and then came to the night class at 5:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. to earn my welding certificate,” said the goal-oriented MIBEST graduate.  “I’d rather be working and making money than be in the classroom but I realized I needed a high school diploma because my long-term goal is to work for the fire department and retire after 25 years, when I’m 50. Welding is my ‘back-up’ plan,” said Anderson. 

He earned his high school equivalency within two months and passed the first time. Anderson’s test scores also qualified him to take the welding course for free at JCJC.

“I’m glad I came back to school because through this program (MIBEST) it was like being paid to go to school and work,” said Anderson.

The MIBEST program is an expanded model for Dropout Recovery funded by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation through a $6 million, three-year grant that was awarded to the Mississippi Community College Board in 2015.  Program participants are able to get workforce and community college credentials and a career pathway to a middle-skill occupation where there is a labor demand, at no cost to the student.  Interested students can have their skills assessed and discover a skill path with the help of an advisor, at any time of the year.  There is not a beginning or ending date to earn the H.S. Equivalency or skills training through the MI-BEST program at JCJC.

To learn more about the MIBEST program, contact Wendy Evans at 601-477-2228 or email at or Jennifer Hughes at 601-477-3287 or


More News