JCJC’s Black History speakers challenges students to “Dare to be You”

Written By: Teresa Martin
Email Address: teresa.martin@jcjc.edu
Date Submitted: 2013-03-01 10:49:35


ELLISVILLE – Answers to questions along with actions, can change a single person’s future and a country’s, as evidenced by the examples given by Jones County Junior College’s annual Black History Celebration keynote speaker, Andre Heath. 

He shared with an audience of students, faculty and staff, “What if Rosa Parks just decided to go along with the flow and not be courageous? What if Michael Jordan decided not to excel in athletics? Or what if Dr. King had decided to play dumb?” said Heath.  “Be yourself. Be the best person you can be and let the world be in awe.”

Without the actions of these few, Heath reminded the audience this nation would be very different.  He reminded everyone, “Be original because you stand in debt to those before you.”

As the Assistant to the Dean for Strategic Initiatives at the University of Southern Mississippi, Heath explained the road to his current position in life was guided by his blind grandmother who challenged him to speak clearly.  Her influence and teaching changed the path of Heath’s future and it caused him some pain along the way. 

“I talked differently,” said Heath who was raised in Crystal Springs.  “My friends made fun of me and I had a choice to make.  I could have gone with the crowd and forgot my grandmother’s teachings and encouragement to speak well and I would not be here today, encouraging you to endure.  I made a choice and so can you.” 

Heath’s presentation, “It’s Your Time to Make a Difference” also challenged the future, successful Mississippians to stay and help the Magnolia State thrive.  That resonated with JCJC sophomore, Cortez Smith of New Augusta who has enlisted with the Air Force to work in aerospace propulsion.

“When Mr. Heath said he’s not leaving Mississippi that hit home with me. The only way to make Mississippi better is to stay here and help the state become better. So I plan to stay home too, here in Mississippi, after serving my country.”

Heath noted how change has come so rapidly to his workplace with the recent hiring of the first female and African American president’s at USM.  Change often comes with adversity too, said Heath.

“You were created for a reason.  Give your time and talents for the betterment of mankind and expect adversity.  You can’t get something for nothing.  Use your gifts,” said Heath. “Greatness is not measured by what was accomplished but what you had to go through to endure.  That’s what makes you strong.”

Crediting his grandmother’s encouragement to speak well, Heath has been an accomplished motivational speaker and was one of 82 contestants from a pool of 30,000 participants from 116 countries to advance to the semifinals of the Toastmasters World Championship of Public Speaking.  The Mississippi Business Journal selected Heath as one of its “Top 40 Under 40” class of 2012 because of his active leadership role in the state.  He is also serving on the Petal School District’s Board of Trustees and he is the President of the Hattiesburg Alumni Chapter of Kappa Alpha Psi fraternity.

One of Heath’s young admirers and college classmates, Dr. Samuel Jones shared how he looked up to Heath when he was at USM.  The JCJC Dean of Students said he hoped the audience was inspired like he was by Heath, and realize it's time for them to “make a difference”' because there are so many opportunities in our communities.  Jones reminded the audience what Heath said, “It’s not about you; use what gifts have been given to you and make a positive change despite your adversity.”    


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