May 13, 2022 - 12:10pm
Photo: Pearl River Community College Award Recipients 2022; left to right Brian Maxie, Kevin Hedgepeth, Hannah Davis Aucoin, Dr. James Sones, Jr., and Steven Dick from Mississippi Power
Alumni with their family and friends, community partners, as well as current faculty and staff of Pearl River Community College gathered Thursday evening to honor this year’s recipients of Alumni Awards. The evening was hosted by the Alumni Association and Development Foundation at the Lake Terrace Convention Center in Hattiesburg.
During the ceremony, individuals and one organization were recognized for both personal and professional achievement while also displaying the values of PRCC.
Young Alumnus of the Year: Hannah Davis Aucoin
The Distinguished Service Award and Outstanding Partnership awards do not have a requirement that the recipient must have attended PRCC for at least one semester. The other three awards do.
Mark Wallace, a PRCC Foundation Board member, served as Master of Ceremonies and PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood greeted attendees prior to the awards being given. Both shared how nice it was to gather in person after the last two years to celebrate those who are dedicated supporters of the college.
Delana Harris ended the evening by congratulating the honorees again and thanking those individuals and companies who support the Foundation.
“I am thankful for everyone in this room as we all play a role in continuing to ensure that the words family, community, and home remain forever a part of who we are at Pearl River Community College,” said Harris.
Nominations for the 2023 Alumni Awards are open at prcc.edu/alumni-awards. More information about each award is available on that page.
Find all photos taken that evening on the PRCC Foundation & Alumni Association Facebook page.
Aucoin is a native of Poplarville. She graduated from Poplarville High School in 2004 with honors, completing the IHL and CDC courses. She attended Pearl River Community College for the 2004-2005 school year and then returned for the Cosmetology program for the 2012-2013 school year. She represented the school in the National SkillsUSA cosmetology competition in Kansas City, Missouri, after winning at the state level in Jackson.
“The program at PRCC gave me the education and foundation to build my career,” said Davis Aucoin.
After finishing that program and working as a cosmetologist for six years, she opened H & Co. Salon in 2019 located in Poplarville. This came after a time of sacrifice, dedication, hard lessons learned, tears, and most importantly, growth. The salon was voted one of the Top Bridal Salons in Mississippi Magazine’s Best of Weddings Edition for 2021.
She is married to Rian Davis Aucoin, MLS. Her parents, Rita Molina, Arthur Molina, and Ronald Davis, still reside in Poplarville.
Davis Aucoin has a heart for helping others as evidenced by her generosity. She has donated more than $1,000 in salon services to the Pearl River County SPCA to aid in the adoption of animals, taken in large amounts of donations for victims of hurricanes Laura and Ida (and every disaster nearby), and delivered donations taken in for Hurricane Ida to Houma, Louisiana.
She has an open invitation for cosmetology students to job shadow in the salon at any time, free of charge. And, in 2021 H & Co. Salon awarded their first scholarship to an incoming PRCC student in cosmetology. The scholarship is currently $1,000, enough to help cover the purchase of the kit all students need.
“As a young adult in my early 20’s I felt lost and struggled to find my place and purpose,” said Davis Aucoin. “I struggled financially which was a major cause of depression and constant stress. Something had to change, so at 26 years old, I enrolled in the cosmetology program at PRCC.
“Being in a position to give while doing something I love, was my purpose. I’ve been able to give new stylists a place to begin their careers, I am able to grow my industry by assisting students with their education and I am able to serve my community and those around me when there is a need. Ten years after beginning this journey, life has come full circle. I had nothing, not even a purpose, but now I have more than I deserve and I’m able to give to others.”
Hedgepeth is a native of Picayune. He graduated from Picayune Memorial High School before attending PRCC from 1984-1986 in the electrical engineering program. While a student at The River, he was active in intramural sports and was a member of the Student Council.
After a year at Mississippi State University, he returned to Pearl River to earn his nursing degree. He then earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from University of Louisiana at Lafayette in 2016.
Hedgepeth worked for 33 years as a nurse, spending 25 years at Ochsner NorthShore. For the past three years, he has worked at Highland Community Hospital as Director of Acute Care Services.
He is married to Christy Sylvest Hedgepeth who also attended PRCC. They have four children. Drew, Devin, and Dalton have all attended PRCC for at least two years before matriculating into Mississippi State University for engineering degrees. Katie Anne is a sophomore at Picayune Memorial High School and plans to attend PRCC upon graduation.
“I have been a supporter of academics and athletics since attending,” said Hedgepeth. “I always encourage students in area to attend PRCC to get the basic foundation of their education as well as CTE program.”
Hedgepeth is active in his community including his role as Deacon/Music Ministry Band Member at First Baptist Church in Picayune (2004-Present), Vice-President/Board Member of Picayune Youth Athletic Association/Coach/Umpire (1997-2018), Board Member of Pearl River County 4-H (1997-2012), Pearl River County Economic Development Charter Board Member (2018-2021), and Picayune Chamber of Commerce Board member – Secretary/Treasurer (2021); Vice-President (2022.)
“This award is definitely one of the greatest honors in my educational/professional career,” said Hedgepeth. “The education my family and I have received and continue to receive has helped pave the way for successful careers as well as allowing us to give back to our communities and others.
“I don’t feel I did anything to deserve this award but am truly honored and thankful. Our family will continue to support and promote PRCC in as many ways as possible. RRR!”
Maxie graduated from North Forrest High School before attending Pearl River Community College to earn an Associate in Arts with an emphasis in accounting. He earned a football scholarship in 1982 and played during the 1982 and ‘83 seasons. However, he decided to leave school to work with his dad in the construction business in January 1984. Maxie finally realized what his parents tried to explain to him all along — he needed to get his education — and returned to PRCC in January of 1987; he graduated that following December.
“Pearl River is where what I call my ‘Adult life’ began,” said Maxie. “I will never forget my days here playing ball and making memories of a lifetime.
“I also knew that when I made my mind up to return and finish my education that I wanted to return to PRCC and get my first degree there. They gave me my first opportunity with a football scholarship and I wanted to fulfill that commitment they made in me.”
After PRCC, Maxie attended The University of Southern Mississippi, earning a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration with an Emphasis in Accounting in 1989. Then he furthered his education with a Healthcare Management Certificate from The University of Michigan, Ross School of Business.
During his last two years of college, Maxie began serving as the first Ambassador (Patient Transporter) at Forrest General. He has stayed with Forrest General for over 28 years and is now the Regional Administrator for all of their regional healthcare facilities, both owned and leased. These facilities include Highland Community Hospital in Picayune, Mississippi, Pearl River Community Hospital & Nursing Home in Poplarville, Mississippi, Perry County General Hospital in Richton, Mississippi, Walthall General Hospital in Tylertown, Mississippi, Marion General Hospital in Columbia, Mississippi and Jeff Davis Community Hospital & Extended Care Facility in Prentiss, Mississippi. Four of these facilities reside in PRCC’s District.
“The fact that I can say I started as a Patient Transporter and worked my way to the Administrative Table is something that makes me very proud,” said Maxie.
Maxie resides in Poplarville with his wife Connie who is also a PRCC graduate and has owned Carver Realty in Poplarville for the last 25 years. Between them, they have four children (Kyle Maxie, Seth Maxie, Mary Beth Carver Matthews, and Seth Carver) and seven grandchildren. Kyle also attended PRCC and played baseball; He was drafted by the New York Mets while a member of the PRCC baseball team. Seth and Mary Beth also attended PRCC.
Maxie serves on the Pearl River County Alumni Chapter of The Pearl River Alumni Foundation. During the last two years, he has assisted with making sure that PRCC students and staff had COVID testing when needed and helped advise the campus with COVID precautions. He also helped coordinate Forrest Health providing telehealth services for PRCC students.
Other associations include the Mississippi Hospital Association, MHA Solutions, Inc. Board of Directors, Southeast Mississippi Air Ambulance District Board Member, Member of the Southeast Mississippi Trauma Care Region.
“I am very honored and humbled to be receiving this award,” said Maxie. “I know there are many people out there who are just as worthy and honestly probably more deserving than me. But this is a very proud moment for me.
“This is actually the first individual award I’ve received in relation to my professional career. The fact that it’s coming from Pearl River and recognizes my service to both the school and my community means a lot to me. I’ve always tried to be a good servant to the people and hopefully this honor shows that I may have been doing something right.”
Now in its 97th year of operations, Mississippi Power, a subsidiary of Southern Company, produces safe, reliable and affordable energy for more than 191,000 customers in 23 southeast Mississippi counties. Mississippi Power was a recent recipient of the Community Partner Impact Award from the Center for Energy Workforce Development for its innovative and ongoing efforts to build a diverse workforce. With nearly 160 megawatts of approved solar energy capacity, Mississippi Power is the largest partner in providing renewable energy in the state of Mississippi. The company strives to be a great corporate citizen through economic development, community readiness and workforce development. Partnerships that improve southeast Mississippi, like the one we have with Pearl River Community College, are how Mississippi Power works every day to make southeast Mississippi an incredible place to call home.
Mississippi Power’s Heritage Scholarships are awarded to students at five community colleges in the company’s service territory. The scholarships are for students interested in technical careers in the energy industry, including lineman, automotive mechanic, electric service and more. Since the beginning of this program, over $18,000 in scholarships have been awarded to PRCC students.
In addition to scholarship programming, Mississippi Power offers numerous internship and cooperative learning opportunities. Allowing students to learn and practice training is essential to their success and growth. Often participants in these programs find employment within the Mississippi Power Company upon completion. Together, Mississippi Power Company and Pearl River Community College are meeting skills labor and workforce needs to ensure sustainable growth within our local communities and state.
Earlier this year, Chase Lewis, a Heritage Scholarship recipient and PRCC graduate, began his career at Mississippi Power as an apprentice electrician. While he was a student at PRCC, Lewis accepted an internship at the company in substation construction before earning a full-time job offer upon his graduation.
Mississippi Power Company also encourages early education and career exploration. Founding the “Girls in STEM” program and “Pathways to Possibilities” allows future Wildcats to experience the fields of science, technology, engineering and mathematics before arriving at college. The encouragement to learn, explore and participate through interactive activities guarantees the next generation of lineman, engineers and leaders to remain vibrant and strong.
Steven B. Dick, Community Affairs & Corporate Giving Manager, accepted the award on behalf of Mississippi Power.
“We are here because we want to make sure that we help train today and tomorrow's workforce so we can continue to compete regionally and at the state level,” said Dick. “Thank you, Pearl River Community College, for allowing us to be a partner.”
Dr. James C. Sones, Jr.
Sones first came to Pearl River Community College as a student, graduating in 1960 with a focus on agriculture. During his time at The River, Sones was a member of the Mississippi Army National Guard and was sent to Fort Polk, Louisiana, for a year of active duty attending Mississippi State University to earn a Bachelor of Science in Agriculture with an emphasis in agricultural education in 1963.
The next decade had him teaching as a Vocational Agriculture Instructor at East Central High School in Hurley and then George County High School in Lucedale. During that time, he also completed a Master's Degree in Agriculture from Mississippi State.
Sones then returned to PRCC as the initial supervisor of the Manpower Development Training Center in Hattiesburg from 1970 – 1972 before moving into the role of director of the newly formed Hancock County Vocational-Technical Center from 1972 – 1977. While working at PRCC, he continued his studies in adult education at the University of Southern Mississippi. For the 1977 – 1978 school year, he took a leave of absence to complete a PhD in Administration and Supervision of Vocational Education at Colorado State University at Fort Collins, Colorado.
Upon his return, he assumed the role of initial director of the Lamar County Vocational-Technical Center for just over a year. Sones was then moved into his final role at PRCC as the Dean of Vocational-Technical Affairs with the responsibility of supervising multiple area vocational-technical centers.
During that time, he was instrumental in the completion of the Technology Center (1989) in Poplarville and the Allied Health Center (1992) on the Forrest County Campus. He was also part of the team working to get 10 different programs nationally accredited.
Outside of PRCC, he was an active member of the Rotary Club of Poplarville and served on the evaluation team for the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
At retirement in 2002, he had a 32-year tenure with PRCC. His selfless work to make PRCC the best community college possible was recognized when he was named the 2001-2002 Mississippi Association of Career and Technical Educators Postsecondary Administrator of the Year.
Living out his retirement in McNeill, Sones continues to give back to others. His love of agriculture is reflected in his continued service to the Pearl River County Soil and Water Association which he has done for over 30 years. He also works with the Farm Service Agency covering Pearl River, Hancock, Harrison and Stone counties to assist producers of various agricultural commodities.
His family also has ties to PRCC. His wife, Celecia, was in the first graduating class for the Associate Degree of Nursing (RN) program and worked at PRCC as the college nurse for over 20 years. Their children, James Aaron and Susan, both attended PRCC; their two grandchildren, Leighton and Courtney, also attended Pearl River.
“I am humbled and honored to be receiving this award,” said Sones. “For a long time, PRCC was a big part of my life. Being recognized is only possible thanks to all the people I was associated with during my time here.
“Most of all, I recognize that we all worked together for the students like others did for me. They are the reason why we are here.”
May 13, 2022 - 2:15pm
Recently graduated from Pear River Community College, Hanna Lambert was overwhelmed and filled with excitement and joy upon learning she was selected as a Jack Kent Cooke Scholar. Lambert becomes the eighth recipient from PRCC in the past eight years.
“Being a Cooke Scholar means the world to me,” said Lambert. “I can attend my dream school without placing a burden on my mom’s shoulders or incurring a lot of debt. I will be forever grateful to have school covered.”
The Richton native found out about the honor Wednesday morning during a surprise Zoom interview with PRCC President Dr. Adam Breerwood and Dean of the Dr. William Lewis Honors Institute on the Forrest County Campus Dr. Ryan Ruckel.
“You are not only representing yourself and your family. You are representing our institution for the long haul. This is something they can never take away from you,” said Breerwood. “You will be cemented into the legacy of Pearl River. … This is a really big deal.”
The prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship is awarded to the nation’s top community college students seeking to complete their bachelor’s degrees at four-year colleges or universities. The award covers a significant portion of their educational expenses, including tuition, living expenses, books and required fees.
This year, the Jack Kent Cooke Foundation received more than 1,200 applications from 332 community colleges for the highly competitive scholarship. There are 100 Cooke Scholars from 42 states from the 440 students who were named as semifinalists.
Awardees can receive up to $55,000 per year for two to three years at a four-year accredited undergraduate school for any area of study. Beyond the financial help to complete their bachelor's degree, Cooke Scholars also receive comprehensive advisement to guide them through the transition to a four-year college and preparation for a career, opportunities for internship, study abroad, graduate school funding, and access to a network of Cooke Scholars and Alumni.
“With the visionary support of our administration, we have built an opportunity engine that makes it possible for us to educate the whole person,” said Ruckel. “She had the opportunities through the Honors Institute and our close ties to Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, service and research projects, and the Honors Symposium, which in turn helped her become Student Government President.
“Hanna recognized the value of these opportunities, overcame her shyness, and flourished as a result. We could see she would be an excellent JKC candidate, so Dr. Terri Smith Ruckel worked extensively with her for a year to develop the strongest possible application. We are so very, very proud of her, but we’re especially proud of her willingness to try challenging things and then always to see things through. She will be successful all her life because of those character qualities.”
As a student on PRCC’s Forrest County Campus, she has been an active member of the Dr. William Lewis Honors Institute, the Beta Tau Gamma Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, and the Science Club. This year, she has served as the President of the Student Government Association.
“Before I came to PRCC, I was rather shy,” said Lambert. “My time here has been amazing. I became a member of the Honors Institute then started taking chances and opportunities as a student that have changed my life.”
She completed her Associates in Arts degree with a STEM pathway. She plans to attend Mississippi State University in the fall. Her goal is to become a Doctor of Veterinary Medicine.
Lambert sees that this will also benefit the community once her education is completed.
“I want to help animals,” said Lambert. “My community will benefit from my caring for their animals.”
Trevor Creighton (2014): Columbia, Creative Writing (plus $200,000 JKC Graduate Scholarship to Harvard in Higher Education administration)
Rachael Carraro (2017): Mississippi State, Landscape Architecture
Said Otwane (2018): Columbia University, Computer Engineering (plus $200,000 JKC Graduate Scholarship; currently undecided)
Savannah Barnes (2020): Ole Miss, Multi-disciplinary Studied, Korean, TESOL
Riley Cleveland (2021): Mississippi State, Elementary Education
Kyle Simpson (2021): University of Michigan, Psychology
Quindalin Harper (2021): Ole Miss, Psychology (Psychiatric Medicine)
Hanna Lambert (2022): Mississippi State, Veterinary Science