May 13, 2022

Pearl student overcomes visual impairment to graduate

“She is the most courageous person I know. She has never let any of her hurdles stop her or slow her down. She continues to push through life and continue…
By: Cathy Hayden
Photography: Tammi Bowles

Above: Whitney Jones of Pearl, center, earned a certificate in medical data technology from Hinds Community College on May 12. A visually impaired student, she drew on support from friends and instructors to master her program. From left are her best friend Susan Hudson, who accompanied her throughout the ceremony, boyfriend Chad Melton, aunt Penny Jones and friend Dawn Fowler.

It was a big day for Whitney Jones of Pearl, who received a certificate in medical data technology on May 12 from Hinds Community College.

Jones, 35, is visually impaired and overcame a few hurdles to get through her program and to the stage to pick up her credential. But with the help of close friends, including best friend Susan Hudson who guided her throughout the day, she persevered. Now she will return in the fall to continue the program and earn a two-year degree.

Jones attended the program on the Rankin Campus for a year and a half before transitioning online.

“It was very difficult. I will say that (Business Office Technology instructor) Tracy Smith was amazing. She was the best teacher I’ve ever had,” Jones said.

She has Addison’s Disease, which sometimes results in visual impairment as the illness progresses.

“I could see for a very long time. I could drive,” she said. “Then I found a blind spot in my vision, and it continued to grow over time. I’m thinking this is as bad as it’s going to get. It’s been pretty stable for a while so I’m going to keep on keeping on.”

Hudson accompanied Jones as a guide throughout the graduation ceremony on May 12.

“She is the most courageous person I know. She has never let any of her hurdles stop her or slow her down. She continues to push through life and continue to accomplish everything that she feels she should,” Hudson said. “She is an asset to my life.”

John Hendricks of Jackson prayed the invocation and benediction. He was a student at Jackson Campus-Academic/Technical Center and was a member of the Minority Male Leadership Initiative and the Sociology Club. He is planning a career in education.

Using “taking steps” as her theme, Abby Granberry of Terry gave remarks on behalf of her classmates. She is planning a career in elementary education. At Hinds, she served as president of Phi Theta Kappa on the Raymond Campus and vice president of Hinds Connection.

“Over the last two years, Hinds has continued to be a place that encourages me and has given me the support I need. Most importantly, Hinds is a place where I have been inspired to grow not only academically but personally as well,” Granberry said.

“Everyone chooses Hinds for different reasons. Maybe you fell in love with it while you were touring colleges, or your friends and family came here, perhaps it made the most financial sense to start here. No matter why you chose Hinds, while you were here, you have grown and are now ready to step into the next phase of your life,” she said.

Hinds Community College is graduating more than 1,300 students in one of four graduation ceremonies over two days May 11 and 12 at the Muse Center on the Rankin Campus and a fifth Saturday May 14 ceremony at J.D. Boyd Gymnasium on the Utica Campus. Hinds is awarding 1,671 certificates and degrees, with some students receiving more than one credential.

Of those graduating, 252 are graduating cum laude with a grade point average of 3.2 to 3.59; 199 are graduating magna cum laude with a grade point average of 3.6 to 3.99 and 209 are graduating summa cum laude with a grade point average of 4.0.

“Every graduation ceremony is special to the college, as we celebrate the success of each student. It is important that we truly celebrate what our graduates have achieved – they have overcome a series of unusual circumstances over the last several months,” said Hinds President Dr. Stephen Vacik.

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