Phi Theta Kappa chapters win top awards at international convention

Phi Theta Kappa members from Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jackson County Campus attended the Phi Theta Kappa International Convention in Nashville, Tennessee, April 5-9.  

The Pi Epsilon Chapter at the Jackson County Campus was recognized as one of the top 100 chapters in Phi Theta Kappa out of more than 1,300 chapters. The results are based on a summation of scores from Honors in Action and College Projects.  The team’s Honors in Action project was entitled “The Elephant in the Room” and it focused on breaking the negative stigmas associated with mental illnesses. The College project focused on getting students to meet with advisors for successful planning of course selection.

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Jackson County campus biology students host Gene Fair

DSCN8837_Barber-768x1024 Jackson County campus biology students host Gene Fair

Madeline Barber, of Dauphin Island, Alabama, a biology student at MGCCC’s Jackson County Campus, designed a project on Pulmonary atresia from found objects she discovered on the beach near her home. The project was part of the Gene Fair held at the campus on April 26-27.



























Biology students at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jackson County Campus held a Gene Fair on April 26-27 to raise awareness about genetically transmitted diseases and disorders. The event included artistic displays created by more than 80 biology students that represented diseases and disorders like Sickle Cell Anemia, Cystic Fibrosis and Down Syndrome.

“The point of the Gene Fair is to offer biology students the opportunity to learn about abnormalities in genes, how those abnormalities may be passed from generation to generation, and the kinds of treatment and therapy available for them,” said Lynn Zimmerman, biology instructor. “It also offers our student body here on campus the chance to learn about then as well.”

Madeline Barber, of Dauphin Island, Alabama, is a freshman biology student. Her project was on Pulmonary atresia, which she chose to research because her cousin has the disorder.  “During the first year of her life, my cousin had three surgeries on her heart,” she said.  “She is doing fine now, but it is always a worry.” 

Barber said her project is made of found pieces from Dauphin Island, including driftwood and parts of a cast net.  “I wanted it to represent where I was from as well as what my cousin has gone through.”

Pamela Martin, of Pascagoula, chose to research Rheumatoid arthritis, a condition she suffers from personally.  “I have a grandfather and an aunt with RA and I suffer with it in my ankles,” she said.  “At 46 years old, I never knew it could be this bad.” 

She said she was a certified phlebotomist working in a local hospital when she began to feel pain in her feet and ankles.  It became so bad that she had to give up her job, which required her to spend most of her days standing and walking.  “It was more than I could stand and I knew I had to find a new career doing something where I could sit more often.” Now she is studying Human Services and hopes to be a social worker.

“I have learned a lot about RA during the course of my research and have uncovered a few things I can do to make it better, like a special diet and exercises,” she said. “I’ve really enjoyed doing this project.”

Barbara Smith, of Vancleave, researched Marfan Syndrome because it affects several members of her family.  “A disorder of the connective tissue, those with Marfan Syndrome are usually tall, thin, with long fingers and toes,” she said.  “They may have flexible joints and scoliosis. In fact, many people say Abraham Lincoln probably suffered from it.” Smith, 80, is an avid quilter and decided to use quilting in her project.

Zimmerman said this is the first year they have held the Gene Fair, but they plan to do it again.  “Getting students to understand how biology impacts them every day is an important part of this class,” said Zimmerman.  “We want to create scientists, make them see themselves in that role.  Through this project, which I encouraged them to make personal, they are able to see how science helps us diagnose, manage and treat, and even prevent many of these diseases and disorders. Hopefully, it helps them see why biology and other sciences are such valuable career choices.”

DSCN8837_Barber-768x1024 Jackson County campus biology students host Gene Fair

Barbara Smith, of Vancleave, made a quilt project that represents Marfan Syndrome. During the Gene Fair, students researched a variety of genetically transmitted diseases and disorders. The projects they designed were artistic representations of their research.

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Pascagoula teacher shows passion for students’ growth

0010-drones Pascagoula teacher shows passion for students' growth

Many people know teachers don’t do what they do because of the glamorous lifestyle it offers. A lot of teachers do what they do because they want to help others not only learn, but love to learn. They might be inspired by previous teachers who helped them love to learn. After spending half a day in Michele Brasher’s classroom, it’s easy to see that this is exactly what she has done with her students at Trent Lott Academy in Pascagoula. 

Brasher has 40 students that come to her classroom throughout the week as part of the IDEAS program. Intellectual Development and Enrichment for Advanced Students is the gifted program for students in grades 2nd-6th at the Pascagoula-Gautier school district. Students are pulled out of their regular classrooms once a week and spend five hours of the day either with Michele Brasher’s or with one of the other two IDEAS teachers at Trent Lott Academy.

“I’ve been teaching for a total of 16 years now, and this is my 11th year teaching gifted,” Brasher explained. “I became a gifted teacher because my daughter had tested into the program [when she was in school], so I was interested in it as a parent. The more I researched the program and the gifted child, I decided to take the gifted [teacher] certification to make me a better parent. Then an opening came up for a gifted teacher, and it all just worked out.”

As an IDEAS teacher, Brasher allows her classroom to be an escape for students, if only once a week.

“There isn’t much down time. We work in smaller groups and we are up moving around, ” Brasher explained. “This is their release from their regular class. Here, they don’t have to stay at a desk. They don’t have to be quiet. The students are comfortable talking to use because when they are here for five hours out of their day, the students become a little family unit.”

Because IDEAS isn’t part of the graded curriculum, Brasher and her colleagues have more freedom in what they teach the students. Not only does Brasher try to challenge and engage the students in a different way than their regular classrooms, but she always wants her students to leave her classroom equipped the skills needed to succeed not only in middle school, but in real life.

0010-drones Pascagoula teacher shows passion for students' growth
0010-drones Pascagoula teacher shows passion for students' growth

“We work on skills like group dynamics, creative thinking skills, focusing on possible careers, communication, research and financial literacy,” Brasher said. “We not only focus on science fields in working with robotics and the drones I bought purchased with a grant I received last year, but we also have projects on famous artists and explore that side of their interests as well.”

The students in her class can have to opportunity to do things like sculpt pendants for Mother’s Day gifts to dissecting sheep brains.

Not all opportunities the students receive in the IDEAS class come at no cost, so Brasher works to receive grants for her classroom. In 2016, Brasher received the Leo Seal grant and used the $2,000 to purchase drones for her class. 

After spending an afternoon in the classroom, it is easy to see the connection Brasher has made with her students. They felt comfortable talking with her about their personal lives and discussing siblings and relationships. It’s clear that Brasher has a passion for teaching and her students. It is clear that her nomination was spot on.

“Michele Brasher is a true teacher in every sense of the word. She truly loves all of her students at Trent Lott Academy and pushes them to be the very best they can be by challenging them at every turn and providing them with hands-on, out-of-the-box learning experiences. Teaching 5th and 6th graders is a special calling, one that Michelle has embraced.”

0010-drones Pascagoula teacher shows passion for students' growth
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MGCCC’s Dr. Javier Gómez named 2017 Moody Institute Fellow

JGomez-copy-248x300 MGCCC’s Dr. Javier Gómez named 2017 Moody Institute FellowDr. Javier Gómez, language arts instructor at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Jackson County Campus, has been named a Moody Institute Fellow for 2017. He was awarded $1,000 and was honored at the Mississippi Community College Foundation Board meeting on April 25. Five instructors from the state’s 15 community and junior colleges were selected as fellows in 2017.

The Moody Institute Trust Fund (MITF) was established in 1990 in honor of Dr. George V. Moody, the first executive director of the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges (SBCJC).  The purpose of the Moody Institute is to provide funds for enrichment experiences for faculty members employed in Mississippi’s public community and junior colleges.  

Gómez, who teaches Spanish and Japanese, will use the funds to return to Japan and study the dialect and culture in the Kansai region. Gómez lived in Tokyo (in the Kanto region) for 14 years, but said the dialect in the two regions is very different.  This research will allow him to teach his students about those differences, especially considering Kansai is home to Osaka, Kobe and Kyoto, the country’s second most populated area outside of the greater Tokyo area.

“I will leave in June and spend part of the summer in Japan,” he said.  “I’m very excited about this opportunity and appreciate the fellowship funds that will help me make that trip.”

Gómez, who was a 2016 Instructor of the Year at Gulf Coast, received his Bachelor of Arts with honors from the University of Florida and his Master of Arts in the Teaching Languages (MATL) from the University of Southern Mississippi.  In 2016, he received his doctorate in Instructional Technology and Design from USM, receiving the Instructional Technology Academic Achievement, Ph.D. Program Award.  In 2013, Gómez was the Humanities Teacher of the Year for the Jackson County Campus.

Before coming to teach at MGCCC, Gómez taught English as a Second Language (ESL), Japanese, French and Spanish to 7th-12 grade students in Tokyo.  While there, he was the DoDEA Pacific Lingua-Fest co-director, Japan School District Foreign Language Festival coordinator and he inaugurated the Japan-United States Speech Contest for American and Host Nation high school students.  He also helped design and develop the DoDEA-Wide Virtual School Spanish course.

“The great teachers I have encountered in my life—from my first elementary teacher in New Jersey, who worked with me when I couldn’t speak English, to the wonderful instructors I work alongside today at MGCCC—have inspired my attitudes about teaching, learning, and sharing,” he said.  “And, I believe, they have made me a much better educator. It’s because of their impact on my life that I am here, doing what I’ve been doing for 22 years.”

A native of Caguas, Puerto Rico, Gómez’s parents moved to the mainland when he was in fourth grade. His dad, Gerardo, worked for the U.S. Merchant Marine/Department of the Navy, and the family eventually settled in Florida.  Gómez graduated from Interlachen High School in Putnam County, Florida, where his parents live today, and considers that home.

A believer in using technology to teach, Gómez used his Instructor of the Year award to purchase virtual reality goggles that have transported students to take tango lessons in Argentina, surf in Puerto Rico, dance in Cuba and visit cathedrals and museums in Spain. 

“Our MGCCC world language students are truly enjoying immersing themselves in the culture of various areas of the world, something I encourage them to do as much as possible,” he said. “In fact, after completing Spanish and Japanese classes here, several of my students have continued their world language education at various universities in the state and a few have transferred to Japan to continue their education. This is the reason as to why I’m returning to Japan this summer, why I visit different regions of the world as often as possible, to teach from experience. That is the best way to learn languages, appreciate other cultures, and embrace everyone.”

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Moss Point students visit Audubon Center to prepare for state test

With help from volunteers from Chevron Pascagoula Refinery and the Audubon Master Naturalists, 15o students from Magnolia Middle School in Moss Point got an early Earth Day celebration at the Pascagoula River Audubon Center

In preparation for the MST2, 8th graders from Magnolia Middle School spent April 13 at the Audubon Center.

“This is one of the ways to help support them, encourage them, help them review but also for them to have a lot of fun,” said Erin Parker, Programs Manager at the center.

Six different stations were set up for the students to rotate through to see how what they are learning in their science classes can apply to real life.

“Today the kids are doing things like testing the water quality at Rhodes Bayou, which runs right behind the center and continues back to Magnolia Middle School, so the kids know it,” Parker explained. “We have a meteorology and weather station where they are looking at patterns in hurricane formation and doing a lot of data and graphing today. There is a stations, so they’re learning a bit about astronomy and the tilt of the earth and what causes seasons. There is a station about native plants and pollinators, and they’re looking at animal adaptations and how plants and animals have evolved to sort of be collaborators. There is a station where they are looking at bird beak adaptations. The model organism they are using are little brown beans in a field, and it’s really hard for some beak adaptations that they’re using to capture enough food to survive. They have a final station where they are learning about trophic levels and we’re using all kinds of organisms from the bayou.”

The Audubon Center offers field trip programs for students of all ages, and it is extremely easy to book a visit. For many students, hand-on learning with real-world applications makes the lesson more memorable. Parker noticed an energy in the visiting 8th graders.

“They’re high energy and seem to be having fun, and the teaching staff is great that came with them over from Magnolia,” she said.

To book a field trip to the Audubon Center, visit the website for details.


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Vancleave students experience Fab Lab

Chevron, Jackson County School District and the Fab Foundation joined together to bring a $1.2 million Fab Lab project to the Gulf Coast.

Fab Lab, short for fabrication laboratory, and was born out of MIT’s Center for Bits and Atoms. Fab Labs provide widespread access to modern means for invention and serve as a place for children to play, create, learn and invent. The Fab Lab will be another tool for children interested in the fields of science, technology, engineering or mathematics. 

The unveiling was held in the Vancleave High School gymnasium, where students were able to experiences they will have in the Fab Lab when it is completed at the end of the year. The mobile Fab Lab is expected to be complete by the summer of 2017.

Some of the features in the Fab Lab include a laser cutter that makes 2D and 3D structures, a sign cutter that plots in copper to make antennas and flex circuits, a high-resolution NC milling machine that makes circuit boards and precision parts, a large wood router for building furniture and housing, and a suite of electronic components and programming tools for low-cost, high-speed microcontrollers for on-site rapid circuit prototyping.

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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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MGCCC’s Process Operations Technology program receives national accreditation

ProcessOPs2017 MGCCC’s Process Operations Technology program receives national accreditation

Lead Process Operations Technology instructor Tommie Broome (right) works with student A. J. Hollman on one of the many pieces of equipment in the PTECH classroom. The equipment allows students to solve problems in scenarios developed by the instructor during hands-on practice.

Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College’s Process Operations Technology (PTECH) program received notification this week that they had received accreditation through the North America Process Technology Alliance Endorsement (NAPTA) Audit process.  NAPTA is a national organization of Process Technology industries and educational institutions working together. 

“The audit, which actually took place in August 2016, is an important step for the program to define its value to our students and the industries we serve,” said Tommie Broome, lead PTECH instructor. “Endorsement is an important step for our program.  Industries recognize this effort as a symbol that we are teaching to an accepted standard and the graduates they hire will be ready for the workforce.”

MGCCC’s PTECH program, housed at the Jackson County Campus, offers both day and evening classes.  There are currently more than 275 students in the program.

Broome said the program has been a member of NAPTA since 2003, but had not applied for endorsement until 2016.  “It was quite an undertaking. The audit involved close scrutiny of our lesson plans, policies, procedures and testing materials” she said. “One important criteria for endorsement involves an active advisory team.  They interviewed members of our advisory team and students in the program. The program passed with excellence because of its outstanding industry support.”

Through collaboration of industry, educational institutions, government, and others, NAPTA supports the development of a diverse, qualified Process Technology talent pool to meet workforce needs in North America. The major objectives of NAPTA include maintaining standards for PTEC programs that assure quality graduates and regularly evaluate conformance to those standards; evaluating and improving the NAPTA curriculum and supporting educational materials to meet the needs of industry and educational partners, participating in activities that advance Process Technology career awareness; driving instructional excellence by providing professional development opportunities; and promoting NAPTA to increase partnerships with educational institutions, industry, vendors, and others.

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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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