First Hispanic Valedictorian from Gautier High School gets full ride to MIT

Francisco-Arellano-1 First Hispanic Valedictorian from Gautier High School gets full ride to MIT

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Francisco Arellano knew he wanted to go to the Massachusetts Institute of Technology since reading a book in the seventh grade where the lead character was trying to get into the school. The character was a good person and very intelligent, and Arellano made it his mission to pursue this dream back then.

When the time came to look at colleges, he realized MIT was the greatest technical school in the country, and he set his mind even further on doing what needed to be done to get accepted. He decided that if he got accepted, he would attend the school.

“If I can get there, there isn’t much I can’t do,” said the high school senior, who made a 35 on the ACT and is Gautier High School’s first Hispanic valedictorian.


He accomplished what he set out to do and got accepted to the Massachusetts school while also receiving a full need-based scholarship to attend. Now, the Gautier native, who hasn’t traveled out of the South before will head to Cambridge in the fall to study engineering. He thinks this will be his biggest challenge – the shift in culture.

He’s had a few moments of doubt about attending school so far away but said that he has relied on conversations with school staff to help him figure everything out. He said that these conversations helped him remember “all the reasons I wanted to go in the first place.”

Arellano, who was also involved in the band program at GHS, plans to initially major in mechanical engineering, but the first two years of core classes are the same for all, so he can decide down the road if he wants to change. He said that he is also interested in nuclear engineering and aerospace engineering.

Wayne Rodolfich, superintendent of the Pascagoula-Gautier School District, said that this opportunity is like hitting the lottery for someone Arellano’s age, and he’s confident that he will succeed there.

“He’s a young man that has the ability to see the opportunity through,” Rodolfich said. “We’re just super proud of him. He’s come a long way and made a great impact on that high school.”

GHS Guidance Counselor Paulette Edwards agreed: “MIT is going to give him the world where a Southern college is going to give him the South. It’s where the world’s geniuses come to study. He’s going to do great.”

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Free Children’s Summer Feeding Program to begin June 7

The Pascagoula-Gautier School District has announced the United States Department of Agriculture’s free summer feeding locations for children and teenagers, 18 years old and younger.

Breakfast and lunch will be available June 7-June 28, Monday through Thursday, at Pascagoula High School and in Gautier, breakfast and lunch will be served at Gautier Elementary on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, June 7- July 26.

Breakfast will be available from 7:30-8:30 a.m. with lunch from 11 a.m. to noon at both schools. Pascagoula High is located at 1716 Tucker Ave., Pascagoula, and Gautier Elementary is located at 505 Magnolia Tree Drive.

For more information, call 938-6525.

USDA is an equal-opportunity employer and provider.

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Comments Off on Business of the Week: Eco-Tours South Mississippi

Take a Boat Ride During Gautier’s Earth Day Event Saturday

The City of Gautier will host its annual Earth Day Celebration this Saturday, April 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. at George Martin City Park.

Eco-Tours of South Mississippi will be providing free boat rides on the Pascagoula River during the City of Gautier Earth Day event at George Martin City Park on Saturday, April 21, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

During the event, Captain Kathy Wilkinson, owner of Eco-Tours of South Mississippi, will offer free 30-minute rides up the Mary Walker Bayou. They have been part of the event since opening Eco-Tours in 2006. The boat rides are popular during the Earth Day event and give families that may not have the opportunity to get out on the water a chance to do so.

“We do not charge for the event as it is our way of giving a little something back to our community,” Wilkinson said. “We enjoy the opportunity to take locals out, as most of our guests on our tours are from out-of-town.”

The tours during the event are shortened versions of the tours Wilkinson regularly gives. According to Wilkinson, they tell guests about the flora and fauna they see, the ecosystems, local history and culture, wetlands and conservation, and stewardship and volunteerism while enjoying the views along the way.

“While it is educational, it is also fun, and we see some pretty cool things out on the river,” she said. “We started the business because we are passionate about the river and thought people might be interested in learning about the Pascagoula River. We have taken out visitors from all over the world, in addition to locals.”

For more information, you can visit or visit the Eco-Tours of South Mississippi Facebook page.



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Jackson County Campus hosts “Sight & Sensibility: A Lady’s Perspective” Art Exhibit

The MGCCC Jackson County Fine Arts Gallery announces the opening of the exhibit “Sight & Sensibility: A Lady’s Perspective” by Saucier, Mississippi, artist Sherry Carlson.  The exhibit will be open to the public March 8-April 19, with an opening reception at 12:15 p.m. on Thursday, March 8.

Carlson received her Bachelor of Arts degree from the University of Alabama, and is the past president of the Gulf Coast Art Association. She is extremely active with several regional art organizations and events, and is currently represented by The Pink Rooster Gallery in Ocean Springs.

artwork-wc-Frida-at-the-Door-206x300-2 Jackson County Campus hosts “Sight & Sensibility: A Lady’s Perspective” Art Exhibit

“Frida at the Door” by artist Sherry Carlson

“My work reflects an intimate interaction within my immediate community and home,” she said. “People, objects and nature are interpreted by the relationship we share.  A rich history is reflected in rusted and worn surfaces, skin imperfections, textures and surfaces. Some of these are seen so frequently in passing that they cease to be acknowledged in real life, settling into the background with nature overtaking and changing them.  I seek to see my surroundings in different lights, to appreciate their histories and character. Through stopping to capture the moment in paint, I hope to slow others down enough to take notice of who, what or where exists right in front of them.”

She works mostly in watercolor on a mid-weight cold-pressed Arches sheet. “The fluid and transparent nature of the medium allows a view of previous histories of color, and the surface can easily be given a faux impression of texture or a physical scraping,” she said. “Detail is last and can be left to the viewer’s imagination. Composition, darks and lights, then color take precedence.  Even with busy subjects, I strive to have a calm, comfortable, familiar feel to my paintings. They are meant to have the viewer linger, have sensations of ambient noise, want to touch them.”

While she prefers plein air painting, many of her pieces originate from photographs or thumbnail sketches. “My teaching and art groups have honed my ability to tune out external distractions while zoning in on the sensations I wish to keep in the paintings. The ultimate goal is for the viewer to feel what I felt about my subject while I was creating the painting.”

The Jackson County Campus Fine Arts Gallery hours are 9 a.m. -3 p.m., Monday-Friday. For more information, contact Marc Poole at 228-497-7684.

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Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge Offers Winter Crane Tours

26850766_10155359298168215_4994836041240927406_o Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge Offers Winter Crane Tours
Those looking for winter entertainment have the opportunity to scout for local wildlife through a Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge winter crane tour.
Melissa Perez from the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge said that crane tours are typically offered on Wednesdays and Saturdays during the fall and winter months, depending on staffing, weather and other factors, because these are usually the best times to see both the cranes and other local wildlife.
“Fall and winter are typically the best times for a few reasons,” Perez said. “We tend to be able to see more wildlife due to the dying back of the thick vegetation; we have the opportunity to view migrating winter bird species; and, most importantly, the fall and winter seasons offer minimal disturbance to the critically endangered Mississippi sandhill crane.”
Perez explained that the tour season ends in late winter or early spring, as this coincides with the start of nesting season for the cranes – this minimizes any potential disturbance to the birds during a very important and vulnerable time. 
She added that crane sightings are not guaranteed on these tours, as they are critically endangered with only about 120 individuals left in the wild. 
“While it’s typical that we do see at least a few cranes on any given tour, we often see other wildlife such as bald eagles, white-tailed deer, rabbits, turkey and many different species of migratory birds that are often difficult to spot in other places,” Perez said. “It’s also a great opportunity to go ‘behind the scenes’ with a staff member and see the pine savanna habitat, which is also rare.” 
The tours are suited for all abilities, from the beginning wildlife watcher to the advanced birder. They last about two hours, and the refuge encourages participants to wear layers for comfort. Due to the length of the tour, though, it may not be suitable for very young children. 
“A crane tour is a unique opportunity to see one of the most rare species and habitat types on the planet,” Perez said. “They are free of charge and a great way for a family to spend a morning enjoying all of the unique natural wonders the Mississippi Gulf Coast provides.” 
All crane tours begin at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge Visitor Center located at 7200 Crane Lane in Gautier. The tours depart at 8 a.m., and reservations are required.Crane Tours for the month of January will be held on January 6, 10, 17, 20 and 24th. For more information or to make a reservation, please call 228-497-6322 ext 101. For upcoming tour dates (and other programming at the refuge) visit
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Learn about Wildlife, Conservation at Crane Fest 2017

23334303_10155200077398215_1353545782970217622_o Learn about Wildlife, Conservation at Crane Fest 2017

Families wanting some outdoor adventure this weekend can participate in the 2017 Crane Fest at the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge.

From 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 9, Crane Fest will feature a variety of activities ranging from archery and air rifle demos, to meeting live birds of prey, boat tours, traditional Choctaw dance and music and more.

Melissa Perez from the Mississippi Sandhill Crane National Wildlife Refuge said the event will have something for every member of the family from children to adults.

“It’s a good opportunity for people to get behind the scenes of what we do here at the refuge,” Perez said. “It’s a completely free event and will have a lot of fun activities for everyone.”

Perez said some of the highlights include the live presentations with hawks, owls and falcons from the Environmental Studies Center, as well as insects from all over the world in the Audubon Institute’s BugMobile. In addition, there will be special demonstrations of traditional Choctaw dance and music, guided native plant tours and eco-tours through cruises on the bayou. If weather permits, the afternoon will finish with a prescribed burn demonstration and a discussion about how prescribed burns are used to conserve the habitat.

Running concurrently will be a Festival of Conservation, where 16 conservation-minded partner organizations from around the area will have interactive, hands-on activities and booths to celebrate 42 years of conservation. 

“We can’t do it alone,” Perez said. “This is a chance for visitors to meet our partners and see the work they do, too.”

Perez said the pine savanna habitat at the refuge is extremely unique to the area and the United States, and the festival hopes to create a greater appreciation of it and the conservation efforts through all the different activities and presentations. 

“This will be a great educational open house event,” Perez said. “It also offers the chance for families to get outdoors and have fun.”

For more information about the event visit

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Pascagoula-Gautier School District Receives $25,000 Grant for Bilingual Library

Screen-Shot-2017-11-20-at-3.35.33-PM Pascagoula-Gautier School District Receives $25,000 Grant for Bilingual Library

Families in Jackson County now have the opportunity to become more bi-literate at the Aaron Jones Family Interactive Center.

The Pascagoula-Gautier School District received a $25,000 State Farm Neighborhood grant to develop a bilingual resource library in an effort to help children and parents in the community. According to State Farm, the program “helps worthwhile nonprofit organizations across the U.S., offering $25,000 grants for neighborhood projects involved in education, safety and community development.”

Kelli McCorkle, the director of the early beginnings program, said that while the Aaron Jones Family Interactive Center also holds the Excel by 5 library, this is an opportunity for families to receive more support with bilingual needs.

“One of our main goals is bi-literacy,” McCorkle said. “We want parents to get involved with reading and use this support before their children enter school.”

McCorkle said that her time as a past school administrator made her aware of the challenges to those students who don’t speak English. She explained that a long-term goal of the library is to support graduation down the road.

“The resource library will help children prepare for kindergarten,” McCorkle said. “When children are more prepared starting at the pre-kindergarten level, you see increased graduation rates, an increase of those who own homes, and more.”

While many of the materials available at the library are in Spanish, McCorkle said there is a variety of materials in many languages, such as Vietnamese or American Sign Language. In addition, there are many different types of activities, including a listening center that incorporates new technologies.

The hours for the library vary. On Monday and Friday from 9 to 11 a.m. and 1 to 3 p.m., the library is open where students and parents can interact or checkout books, with hours on Tuesdays and Thursdays from 1 p.m. until 3 p.m. While only those in Pascagoula and Gautier will be able to checkout materials, anyone is welcome to come into the center and interact.

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Terrance Trussell Wins Hickory Hills Golf Tournament

IMG_3901 Terrance Trussell Wins Hickory Hills Golf Tournament

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Hickory Hills Country Club hosted their annual Men’s Club Championship last weekend at the Gautier clubhouse. Terrance Trussell won the tournament, beating out fourteen other players in the two-day tournament. 

Trussell shot 77-79, making a 156 total and won the tournament by one stroke. To add to the pressure of the game, there was a 3o mph wind speed making it difficult for the golfers to play their best. “It was really windy and cold for the golfers”, says Phil Paslawsky, a representative from Hickory Hills Country Club. “It was tougher on the players, making the club selection tougher for them to have more patience and concentration”, he said. 

But, Trussell was not going to let the weather stand in his way of taking home the trophy. Trussell has had his eyes on the prize for a long time. “I’ve been wanting to win the club championship for several years now, but I could never get a break through”, says 41-year-old Trussell. His mother used to work at the club house, so he’s been preparing for this win ever since he grew up playing on the course. “I’m glad I finally won”, he added. “Everyone that’s a golfer wants to win their club championship”, he said. 

Trussell says his next game he’s preparing for is the KOS Cup. This tournament is where the champions of Hickory Hills battle the champions of Shell Landing Golf Club to take back the trophy. 

For more information on Hickory Hills Country Club or their tournaments, visit or call (228)-497-2372. 

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Gautier’s Mullet Festival Hopes to Draw Crowds and Offer Family Fun

Mullet-Fest-Image Gautier's Mullet Festival Hopes to Draw Crowds and Offer Family Fun

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Gautier is gearing up for a day of fun and entertainment at its 27th Mullet and Music Festival, presented by Waste Pro, Mitchell Distributing, City of Gautier and Jackson County.  With events beginning at 9 a.m., the day features two music stages with all day performances including artists Kristian Cowart, the Highway Sisters, Amanda Jones Band, Deuces Wild and country music legend Ronnie McDowell. 

McDowell, who highlighted the festival two years ago, will return to the stage and perform from 7-9 p.m. followed by a fireworks show.“He brought a big crowd then, and we hope he will draw another great crowd this year,” said Jan McQuillen, chair of the festival.

Over 100 craft and food vendors will be on site to sell their wares and delectable treats. “We’ve had some returning vendors and have new vendors from all over,” adds McQuillen.

Also available on Saturday will be the official festival print from artist Willie Dees. Dees print, “The Magic of the Mullet Festival,” was selected as the winner for this year’s Mullet Festival art competition.

Car enthusiasts can take part in the Car and Truck Show from 11 a.m. – 5 p.m.   On site registration is available for the classic car show, and cash awards will be given to the crowd’s favorite.

Children are included in this year’s event and can enjoy the day at the Kids Zone, an area especially for them. The Kids Zone includes includes bounce houses, McDonald’s Play and Learn Zone, bubble balls and concludes with a glow stick disco party from 7-9 p.m.

You can even bring your pets to the Bicentennial Pet Parade from 1-2 p.m. Pet owners are encouraged to dress their pets in bicentennial attire, and prizes will be given for best costumes

“This is Gautier’s biggest festival, and we are hoping to draw a crowd to our city and bring our community together for a day of fun,” said McQuillen. “In year’s past, we’ve had 10,000-15,000 people at the festival, and we are hoping for good weather and a good crowd”

For more information on the festival, contact McQuillen at 228-215-0828 or check out their Facebook page,

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