Home Town stars tell JCJC graduates they can come home

Written By: Kelly Atwood
Email Address: kelly.atwood@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2018-05-04 21:39:20

     Ben and Erin Napier, stars of the HGTV show “Home Town,” told students at Jones County Junior College’s first of two graduation ceremonies that Jones was like home to them.

     “Jones is where it started for us,” said Erin Napier. “If we’d never come here we never would have met, we wouldn’t have this show, we wouldn’t have the companies that we own together, we wouldn't have our baby daughter, Helen. It’s just incredible. When you get past this stage in your life, you need to look back and take inventory and pay homage to that.”

     The Napiers were the keynote speakers at one of the college’s 91st Spring Commencement ceremonies, held May 4, where students received an Associate in Arts degree, Associate in Applied Science degree, a Technical Certificate or a Career Certificate. Approximately 710 of the more than 780 students eligible to graduate participated in the combined two graduation ceremonies. Rick Looser, C.O.O. and president of the public relations firm the Cirlot Agency, was the guest speaker for the second ceremony.

    Home is also what father and son Kenneth Andrews Sr. and Jr. call Jones.

    When Kenneth Andrews, Sr. came back to JCJC to finish his degree, he said he “came home again.”

   He first attended JCJC in 1987, playing football for the late Sim Cooley. Andrews left school without completing his degree and went on to work at Howard Industries, now working at Federal Express. Through the years, he married and had a son, Kenneth Jr., then remarried and had a daughter, Lindsey. His second wife, who was an RN for 30 years, always encouraged him to go back to school.

    “My (second) wife will be deceased five years on May 10,” said Andrews, Sr. “It’s ironic (that he’s graduating now). One of the main reasons I went back was because of her. I always promised my wife I would go back.”

    Andrews, Sr., who plans on becoming a history teacher, said he wanted his children to be encouraged in seeing him complete his degree.

    “I want to make an impact,” said Andrews, Sr. “No matter what you’re going through, it’s never too late to go back to school.”

    There’s no place like home. That’s what Kenneth Andrews, Jr. said when he returned to Jones after a semester away. Andrews, Jr. attended Jones his first year but decided to try a different college his second year to “get away from home and explore other colleges.” However, he quickly realized that it didn’t have that “home” feeling that Jones has.

    At Jones “you can go somewhere and feel like everyone’s a family,” he said. “You’re not judged by everyone. (In activities he’s involved in, such as concert choir, concert band and Jones OnStage) it’s not just a thing you do, you’re a family reaching one goal,” the speech pathology major said.

     The father-son duo said it’s exciting to get to share a milestone such as graduation together.

   “When he told me he was graduating when I was, it surprised me that he managed a job and got his degree in those two years that I did because it’s tough,” said Andrews, Jr.

    The two sat beside one another and walked one after another across stage to receive their diplomas. Also receiving his diploma during the ceremony was Ben Napier, who had originally transferred from Jones instead of graduating when he attended as a student.

    “I learned as much in those two years here (at Jones) as I did in a few years at Ole Miss,” said Ben. “It was really important to me to be able to come back and to get this diploma with you guys today.”

    In the closing of their speech, the Napiers explained that Jones has equipped the students to do what they want with their life, and whether they realize it yet, that includes more than continuing their education or going into the workforce.

     “It taught us how to do our jobs, it taught us how to form lasting relationships, it taught us about love and commitment and how to handle what life throws at you,” explained Erin. “Leave here, learn all you can, do all you can, see all you can, do amazing things. Don't be afraid to bring that all back to the place you’re from. Come back and be the change you want to see in the world. And make a difference in your own hometown.”



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