Children have Easter fun in downtown park

As Easter Sunday closes in, children across Jackson County are getting their baskets ready for all of their candies and treats.

Dozens of children and their parents gathered Saturday morning at Little Children’s Park in downtown Ocean Springs for a bevy of Easter activities.

Not only could children explore the park for hidden Easter eggs, but hunts were even divided by age group to give all children a chance to grab some goodies. 

With the enthusiasm of every child, each hunt only lasted a few minutes before all of the eggs were snatched. However, there were plenty of other Easter activities for all attendees.

Throughout the park, children could decorate their own holiday tote bags or win prizes at Easter-themed carnival games. Children could pin the tail on the Easter Bunny or get a strike in Easter bowling.

The park was filled with music to keep everyone in lively spirits. Along with the sunny but cool weather, it was a great morning for everyone to get in the Easter spirit.

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Morning egg hunt gets Gautier Easter-ready

As Easter Sunday closes in, children across Jackson County are getting their baskets ready for all of their candies and treats.

Dozens of children and their parents gathered early Saturday morning at Shepard State Park in Gautier for a chance to claim the honor of getting the most Easter eggs. 

All attendees were let loose to hunt promptly at 9 a.m., and by 9:15 everyone was checking their baskets for goodies. 

Not only did children get the chance to hunt for Easter eggs, but there were also face-painting stations, free hay rides and an Easter Bunny poised for pictures. All of the makings were there for a fun-filled morning.

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Gloria Young named MGCCC 2017 Difference Maker

GYoung_DSC_6203fxs Gloria Young named MGCCC 2017 Difference Maker

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College held its annual Spring Reception on March 23 at the Hospitality and Resort Management Center in Biloxi in honor of the 2017 L. N. Dantzler Difference Maker Award recipients. Each year since 2003, four employees have been recognized with this award for demonstrating an exceptional work ethic, a deep sense of college and community involvement, and a tremendous commitment to students. 

Gloria Young, of Gautier, was chosen as the 2017 Difference Maker for the Jackson County Campus.  Young has been a custodian at the campus for 24 years.  Her family is tightknit and have remained in the area and her three children are all college alumni. Her two daughters work at the Jackson County Campus – Sarah is the administrative assistant in the Maintenance Department, and Amy works at the campus childcare center. Her son works for the Jackson County road department.  She also has one of her two grandchildren on campus. Her granddaughter is a student in the Radiologic Technology program.

“So many things have changed at the college over the years,” she said. “The campus has grown and it is really such a beautiful campus. One thing that is the same as it always has been is the people. The people, from students to faculty to all employees, are just great here.”

 Gloria is an outstanding ambassador for the campus, as she greets everyone who passes her in the hallways with a smile. “I’ve found that if you help people when you can and always treat them with kindness that you most likely get the same attitude in return. And when you don’t, it is probably because they are having a bad day, and your smile might make the difference for them and brighten things up a bit.” 

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Tommie Broome named 2017 MGCCC Instructor of the Year

Tommie Tommie Broome named 2017 MGCCC Instructor of the Year

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College celebrated the 2017 Instructors of the Year at the annual Spring Reception held on March 23 at the Hospitality and Resort Management Center in Biloxi.  One instructor is chosen from each of the college’s campuses to receive the honor.

Tommie Ann Broome, of Moss Point, was chosen as Instructor of the Year for the Jackson County Campus.  She is the lead instructor for the Process Operations Technology program and has taught at MGCCC since 2003.  Before beginning her tenure at the college, she worked for Chevron Pascagoula Refinery for 23 years as a process operator, spending more than 10 years of her Chevron career in the Learning and Development Department for the refinery. An MGCCC alumna, she received her bachelor’s degree in career and technical education from William Carey University in Hattiesburg.

Tommie has been involved with North America Process Technology Alliance since 2003 when she began teaching. “Their curriculum was what we needed to get the classes started,” she says. “Having that curriculum helped us get the program off the ground, and it was and has been a wonderful curriculum.” Tommie served as Education co-chair of the Standards and Quality Committee for NAPT before moving to her current position as Education co-chair of the Curriculum and Education Committee. She still serves as an auditor for program endorsements for the S&Q Committee. 

After three years at Perkinston, they moved the program to the Jackson County Campus. The program has grown successfully over the years. “We now have a full day program and a full night program with almost 300 students,” she said. “It has been a phenomenal trip, getting this program off the ground and watching it grow to what it is today.” 

In 2016, Tommie led a group of students in forming a troubleshooting team to participate in the qualifying round for the Third National Troubleshooting Competition held in Texas. The three-member team from MGCCC was one of only eight teams invited to participate in the nationals, out of 25 teams competing at the qualifier. “I was very proud of these students and what they accomplished,” she said. “It was a very tough competition, and our students performed very well.” She plans to take a team again this year. 

“Teaching is fun,” she said. “I come in to work looking forward to the day ahead. Why? Well, because I love what process is all about. No two days are the same, and you have to be good at solving problems. Teaching is certainly the same way, and that’s probably why I like both occupations so much. I want to share my love of process with my students. I know they are initially attracted by the money they make, but I want them to love their careers as much as I have.” 

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MGCCC student wins welding sculpture event at state competition

DSC_6641fxs MGCCC student wins welding sculpture event at state competition

For most people, switching from nursing to welding as a major might seem an odd choice.  For Mary Majchrzak of Ocean Springs, welding seemed like a natural thing to do because she has always enjoyed working with her hands to complete do-it-yourself projects. “I’ve always been into things like woodworking and working on my Harley, so I’ve never been afraid to jump in and try things I haven’t before.” 

It was actually her DIY penchant that led her to taking welding classes.  “I needed to weld a piece in a project I was working on.  I checked out the types of classes I could take and ended up falling love with welding in the process.”  Now, she is set to graduate this summer.

“I know it is hard to believe that I would make such a big jump from science with nursing to this, but there is actually a lot of science in welding.”

She has proven her talent with the science part of welding by winning first place in Welding Sculpture at the state SkillsUSA competition held in March.  She will be competing at nationals in June. 

“Different metals react to different levels of heat in different ways,” she said.  “And you can do different things with different metals.  That’s what I like, figuring it out.”

She made a bouquet of roses in a vase for her welding sculpture.  Each flower is intricate and lovely.  The rose stems are exact as is the vase.

“I was very proud of what I’ve made for my first attempt at sculpture. I got a lot of help from my instructor in what metals to use for what, temperatures, techniques.  It has truly been a learning process.”

Along with the sculpture itself, she had to present a portfolio that showed the work in progress on the sculpture as well as notes on how she completed the process.

“It was sort of a grueling process to put the book together,” she said.  “But I love scrapbooking, too, so I also really enjoyed it.”

She said the decision to enter the contest was sort of last minute.  “I am the president of the SkillsUSA club on campus and I discovered that no one was planning to enter.  I just knew that couldn’t happen and I ended up choosing the sculpture category.  I’m glad I did.”

Majchrzak, originally from Vermont, ended up in Mississippi because her husband, Tyler, is in the Seabees.  She actually rode her Harley down from Vermont when she moved here in 2013 (her husband was already on the Coast by the time she made the trip).

“I guess you could say that I’m non-traditional in my approach to things,” she said.  “I’m also an overachiever.  I believe in doing things myself rather than getting someone else to do it.  I think that is why welding is a great occupation for me.  It fits my personality well and goes to prove what I always say: ‘Anything is possible if you try hard enough.’”

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Local scientist works for education, conservation

lasalle_photo Local scientist works for education, conservation

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Boasting numerous educational programs for all age groups, the Pascagoula River Audubon Center has become a staple in Jackson County.

Serving the largest free-flowing river in the United States, the center promotes education about the river and leads conservation efforts to the surrounding environment. Leading the effort the whole way is Dr. Mark LaSalle. 

Mark LaSalle is the recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, the Mississippi Wildlife Federation Conservation Educator Award, the Gulf Guardian Award, and the Boy Scouts of America Silver Beaver Award. As the Director of the Audubon Center in Moss Point, LaSalle is responsible for coordinating the continued development of the center as well as expanding the center’s educational programs.

“My focus has always been on environment education and wetland restoration, so it was natural that when I learned about the possibility of this center coming to be that I wanted to be part of it,” he said. “I’m always looking for a challenge, so building something like this from the ground up for the past 10 years has been fun for me.”

LaSalle is a wetland ecologist, providing expertise on wetlands, water quality and environmental impacts of humans. Not only does he help to educate visitors to the Audubon Center, but also everyone in the surrounding community about the unique resource that is the Pascagoula River. 

“I work promoting and protecting this resource,” he said. “I like to think of conservation as a three-legged stool that is held up by educational programs, the science to back it up and public policy to make it all happen. We are constantly working on engaging the community about a resource we are trying to protect. We work to be a partner with the community and promote nature-based economic development. My world is education.”

lasalle_photo Local scientist works for education, conservation
lasalle_photo Local scientist works for education, conservation
lasalle_photo Local scientist works for education, conservation

However, LaSalle stressed that nothing would be possible without his partners at the center who execute everything he dreams. 

“I couldn’t do it without them.”

Another passion of LaSalle’s is to educate the youth of the community on the area’s natural resources. He feels they are the future.

“I feel like this younger generation is not as connected to nature as when I grew up, with all of the technology that is now so readily available,” he said. “Also, children are the building blocks for keeping resources like the river protected. I can get current elected officials on my side, but if I don’t work on the future elected officials then I’m in trouble. Yeah, not everyone will run for office or get elected, but these children will grow up and vote. We might not get an immediate result from these education programs we coordinate, but we will see it down the road.”

Anyone who has the chance to speak to LaSalle about his work can easily hear the passion in his voice about everything he does. He offers a great piece of advice that can apply to anyone, no matter their interests.

“You have to love what you’re doing or you have to do something else,” he said. “Find something you love doing because you’re going to be it a long time.”

Pay it Forward Fridays

JaxCoHome would love to hear about people doing good in our community. If you know someone that is a champion for our community, the environment, education or local business, fill out the nomination form by clicking here.

 

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Audubon Center holds spring break programs

17796024_1463180050380388_8764190110847778968_n Audubon Center holds spring break programs

 

The Pascagoula River Audubon Center will offer programs for students during spring break.

The Vacation Day programs are half-day programs for students to explore, through hands-on activities, nature and natural phenomena.

Designed like a typical summer camp day, students will learn about a topic through science, art, games, and more. 

Friday, April 14: Natural Egg Dyeing and All Things Spring

Let’s get creative! Each participant will take home at least 6 naturally-dyed eggs. We’ll do a nature scavenger hunt, plant some spring seeds, and learn about signs of spring. Pre-registration is REQUIRED by 5 p.m. Wednesday, April 12th for the natural egg dyeing program!

Session 1: 9 a.m. til noon for grades k-2

Session 2: 1 p.m. til 4 p.m. for grades 3-5

Tuesday, April 18: Wild Weather 

Have you ever wondered about the weather in Mississippi? During this vacation day program, we’ll make a weather wheel and learn to use weather equipment. We’ll also talk about how to be safe during different types of wild weather!

Session 1: 1 p.m. – 4 p.m. for grades k-5

Wednesday, April 19: Migration Station

Did you know that many birds from all over North America migrate through the Gulf Coast? Our beautiful coastal environments provide food, shelter, and rest areas in the fall and spring. We’ll learn all about birds, flight, migration, and more at this camp!

Session 1: 9 a.m. til noon for grades k-5

Thursday, April 20th: Life Aquatic

What lives in the bayous and bays that make up our backyard? Join us to get up close and personal with our fish and other aquatic creatures that call our coasts home. 

Session 1: 9 a.m. til noon for grades k-5

Friday, April 21st: Reptile Rendezvous

Our cold-blooded neighbors- from lizards to snakes to alligators- love our warm spring afternoons. Learn about how to safely find, observe, and identify the scaly critters that call Mississippi home. 

Session 1: 9 a.m. til noon for grades k-5

Outdoor Adventure Programs for Middle and High School Students 

Looking for something to get your middle or high school student out of the house over spring break? Try one of our afternoon outdoor adventure programs!

Kayaking Rhodes Bayou 

We’ll learn the basics of kayak strokes, how to use a map to figure out where we are and where we’re going (and how to get back!), and get a chance to explore the Bayou and Beardslee Lake via kayak. ALL participants must wear a life jacket (provided) and something more substantial than flipflops. Please dress to get a little wet and enjoy an afternoon of adventure.

Session 1- April 12: 1-4 p.m. grades 9-12

Session 2- April 19th: 1-4 p.m. grades 9-12

Session 3- April 20th: 1-4 p.m. grades 6-8

Cost is $10 for members and $12 for non-members. Each Vacation Day program requires pre-registration, including complete student paperwork. Visit the Audubon Center website for details.

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Attract Hummingbirds to your Backyard

March 15, also known as the Ides of March, doesn’t have a sinister connotation in Jackson County. It’s the day that marks the annual return of our summer residents, the Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. 

2015-09-17-13.53.46-224x300 Attract Hummingbirds to your Backyard

A Ruby-Throated Hummingbird rests on a twig

These fast-moving nectar-drinkers return from their winter habitat in Central and South America in mid-March each year just as the first flowers appear on our native cross vine and coral honeysuckles. 

Hummingbirds spend the summer in Jackson County, seeking out nectar from flowers and feeders. During their nesting season (June-August) they will spend more time seeking out insects, particularly caterpillars, to feed their young and you may see less of them during this time. 

The best way to attract hummingbirds to your backyard is to provide them with plenty of nectar sources. A combination of  native plants, a few special tropical blooms, and nectar feeders will help keep your hummingbird visitors happy and healthy. 

Here are some tips and tricks to attract hummingbirds to your yard:

Nectar Feeders

 Simple nectar feeders can be filled with a mixture of water and white table sugar, in a 4 parts water to 1 part sugar ratio. Do not fill your feeders completely full, as the sugar water tends to ferment quickly in our hot climate. Add a small amount to your feeders and keep the rest in your refrigerator to slow spoilage. 

Feeders will need to be cleaned regularly (at least weekly) during the warmest months as the sugar water attracts ants, bees, and can quickly grow mold. Scrub the parts (inside and outside) with hot soapy water and a dash of vinegar, rinse well, and refill. You’ll often find your resident birds impatiently awaiting the return of their favorite feeder!

It is NOT recommended that red food coloring be added to the nectar solution, and some evidence indicates that red dyes may be harmful to hummingbirds.

Native Plants

Planting native plants with tube or trumpet shaped flowers encourages hummingbirds and other winged pollinators to your garden. Crossvine (Bignonia capreolata), trumpet creeper (Campsis radicans), coral honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), and various salvia species provide plenty of nectar.

Native plants are adapted to our Coastal climate, are typically more tolerant of our native insect pests, and provide habitat and food for a variety of wildlife. Native plants generally require less from gardeners (except maybe some pruning when they overgrow their space) than plants adapted to other weather and climate regimes. 

Tropical Plants 

There are some wonderful tropical plants that can be added to encourage hummingbirds as well. The bottlebrush tree (Callistemon citrinus) is a familiar sight, though it is actually native to Australia, and its beautiful red flowers bloom just as the hummingbirds return to Jackson County, making it a great addition to a bird-friendly backyard. Many tropical plants can be grown as annuals here along the Coast as they cannot survive even our mildest winters and are welcome garden guests during the summer. Fuschias (Fuschia magellanica), cosmos (Cosmos bipinnatus), and other bright and cheerful flowers can keep hummingbirds well fed and gardeners happy. 

 

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Cyclists gather for community awareness ride

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As the sun rose over the Singing River on the first Sunday in April, dozens of cyclists gathered at Pascagoula’s River Park for a community ride throughout Jackson County.

Right 2 Ride was first held in 2016, and the number of participants doubled in its second year to nearly 100.

“Today is meant to educate motorists that cyclists have the right to ride on the road,” said Kristi Ducote, Outdoor Recreation Specialist with the City of Pascagoula. “None of the roads are blocked off, so cyclists are interacting with regular traffic today.”

Ducote explained how cyclists do have the right to ride on roadways and some of the laws that apply.

“There is a state law that says that motorists should allow a minimum of three feet when passing a cyclist,” Ducote explained. “I say just take the guess work out of it and change lanes to pass a cyclist as you would a motor vehicle. Cyclists should also make sure to ride right with the flow of traffic and obey all the rules of the road such as stopping at stop signs and using turn signals.”

Right 2 Ride offered bike routes of four different distances to attract and accommodate cyclists of all riding abilities. The 83-mile ride began at 7 a.m. while the 40-mile, 20-mile and 8-mile rides began at 8 a.m.

All cyclists had to register for the event in order to receive a goody bag, a participation medal, an event t-shirt and refreshments before and after the ride.

 

“All proceeds from today’s ride will go toward making Pascagoula a bike friendly community,” Ducote said. 

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25th annual soap box derby to be in downtown Moss Point

The 25th anniversary of the Deborah Washington Memorial Soap Box Derby will be held in downtown Moss Point on Saturday, April 29.

The race, sponsored by the Chevron Black Employee Network (BEN) and Moss Point Active Citizens (MPAC), draws participants from across the Southeast. It is open to children between the ages of 7 and 17 who build their engine-less cars from kits purchased from a designated supplier.

Winners of the Moss Point divisions will travel to Akron, Ohio to compete in the All-American Soap Box Championship.

Originally known as the Magnolia State Soap Box Derby, the event’s name was changed to honor Deborah Washington after she lost her battle with breast cancer. Washington started the event in 1992, and was a beloved Refinery employee known for her active community involvement.

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