JCJC gives students the “EDGE” with new pilot program

Written By: Teresa McCreery
Email Address: teresa.mccreery@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2017-07-26 20:54:26

ELLISVILLE – Homeless, dependent on government assistance and friends, 37-year old Chris Gannon was losing hope until he applied for government assistance in Jones County. Instead of food stamps, Gannon’s financial future was about to change because of a new pilot program he was eligible for called EDGE or Ethics, Discipline, Goals, and Employment at Jones County Junior College.

“Chris came to us with a few degrees but was unemployed and had difficulty finding work in the field. He completed the Career Assessment Program and got the employability skills and assistance he needed to get on track,” said JCJC EDGE program director, Michael Yarbrough.  Proudly he added, “Chris landed a part-time job at USM’s English Language Institute and in May he became a full-time employee.”

Even though Gannon was well educated, earning a bachelor’s degree in German and English at the University of Mississippi in 2005, a master’s degree in TESL (teaching English as a second language) in 2009, and a bachelor’s degree in Spanish from the University of Southern Mississippi in 2012, finding a job was more daunting. The coast native and now Hattiesburg resident explained he was so focused on graduating when his grandfather became ill he couldn’t think of himself. 

“I didn’t take the time to utilize the career center while I was in college. There were many distractions. Teaching foreign languages is a very competitive field and there isn’t much demand in Mississippi.” said Gannon. “When my grandfather needed me, I took care of him.”

While trying to help his grandfather recover from knee surgery on the coast, he worked at a pharmacy until his grandfather passed away. He headed south to Austin, Texas and eventually to St. Augustine, Florida doing various jobs before moving back to Mississippi in 2016. He continued doing odd jobs on the coast when a friend in Ellisville found some work for him at his Florist shop last summer and that’s when he discovered the EDGE program.

“The class was made up of students with different needs and reasons. The EDGE program prepared, motivated and gave me hope where I didn’t have before.  I didn’t know what my future held, living off the charity of others.  The EDGE program gave me a reason not to be depressed,” said the grateful graduate and USM employee. “I did interview training and worked on my resume’ before targeting potential jobs. Now I have a great job and enjoy going to work, which I can’t say that about some jobs I’ve had.  It’s the most rewarding job. I don’t have the same fears I had in the past.”

The EDGE pilot program is a partnership with the Mississippi Department of Human Services and five community colleges across the state, including JCJC.  Because of his success, Gannon was selected to be a part of a video promotion about the EDGE program called, “Better Me, Better Mississippi.”  He shared, the theme resonates with him.

“A better trained-workforce is better for the state and economy. I am humbled by, and eternally grateful for all of the assistance and resources the EDGE program has given me.  It truly changed my life for the better, and it cannot be overstated exactly how vital and valuable it is to anyone in my situation.  No one should take such a gift for granted because they have only to benefit from it,” said Gannon.  “Instead of worrying about my future, I’m planning and dreaming of what I can do.”

The video with several testimonies like Gannon’s is expected to be completed in August.  For more information about the EDGE program, contact JCJC’s program director, Michael Yarbrough at 601-477-4153 or email, michael.yarbrough@jcjc.edu.


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