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Grove Scholar Profile: Jon’na Bailey

Posted on: November 4th, 2019 by erabadie
Jon’na Bailey

Jon’na Bailey

— By Paris Payne, Journalism ’21

Growing up in the small town of Pickens, Miss., Sophomore Jon’na Bailey has always longed to outgrow her tiny setting. With only a handful of medical professionals in the area and most of them being Family Nurse Practitioners. Bailey decided to put her all into becoming a pediatrician.

Jon’na Bailey’s determination drove her throughout high school and continued on into college.

Bailey has been coming to the University of Mississippi campus ever since 2012 when her brother attended the university. In addition to following in her brother’s footsteps, the welcoming environment and smiling faces helped solidify Bailey’s decision to attend Ole Miss.

“It’s just always felt like home. Everybody was so welcoming. When we came for my brother’s orientation, people were constantly helping us and showing us where to go. And I never got that feeling when I went to any other campus in Mississippi,” Bailey said.

She jumped right into campus life, getting involved in organizations all across campus.

In addition to being a Grove Scholar, Bailey has served as a member of IMAGE and the American Medical Women’s Association (AMWA). She is currently a community assistant, logistics manager for the ASB Outreach Board, FASTrack peer leader and an UM Connect mentor.

Through Grove Scholars’ internship program, Bailey was given the opportunity to shadow Dr. Morgan McLeod this summer. She worked alongside Dr. McLeod at Wallace R. Conerly Critical Care Hospital and Winfred L. Wiser Hospital for Women and Infants, as well as, other smaller clinics in the surrounding area.

The experience gave Bailey a taste of the medical life she had dreamed about. She saw everything from vaccinations to amputee patients, and she observed diligently alongside medical students and interns.

“I thought I wouldn’t enjoy the hospital as much as I did, because hospitals are a bit faster paced. But I honestly enjoyed [the hospital] more. It was consistent every day, and you’re going to have more than one patient every day.”

Bailey credits being a Grove Scholar with helping her get the opportunity to shadow Dr. McLeod.

“Being a Grove Scholar is like being a part of this smaller Ole Miss family,” Bailey said. “It’s filled with people who have experienced or are experiencing the same thing as me. It has provided me with friendships, opportunities and connections.”

Bailey remains enthusiastic on her journey towards medical school as she works to complete her undergraduate degree in Biology.

Grove Scholars Profile: Janeisha Simpson

Posted on: February 25th, 2019 by gray

— By Anne Watkins Tyson, IMC ’19

“When I first got to Ole Miss, I was unsure. But, now I can’t imagine myself anywhere else.”

Janeisha Simpson, a senior from Lexington, Mississippi, is thankful to be a student at the University of Mississippi where she can be a part of the Grove Scholars program.

She began her studies as a Biology major, but she is now a Psychology and Nursing major. “Psychology is just more interesting to me,” she remarks over coffee in a campus café. She loves interacting with people, especially kids, and wants to do this everyday as a career.

Janeisha remembers telling her parents she knows she wants to work with kids. This desire was confirmed in a developmental psychology course at Ole Miss. “It is what made me fall in love with my major. It was all about children and their brains,” she says. “When they are so young, you get to know them, help them and have an effect on how they grow up.”

After Janeisha’s college application was received by the previous director of Grove Scholars, she received a call asking if she was interested in summer school.

She smiles at her coffee as she remembers her answer, “Sure, why not?”

The summer before her college career began, she was honored to meet the Grove Scholars, old and new, learn the background of the program and become acclimated with the community that would soon become her biggest supporters.

The Grove Scholars were encouarged to think of themselves as trees in the grove on campus. Once one tree has grown, you want to plant another tree. And then, you want to show that tree how to grow. “The upperclassmen have all been here for us. Now, we want to pass the motivation and the encouragement to the younger people in the program,” Janeisha says. Just like her heart for molding children into the best they can be, she has a heart for leading those younger than her in the program.

At first, Janeisha planned on going to a community college after graduating from her high school, Holmes County Central High School. But that changed when she came to a visitor day on the UM campus. She was smitten and has not looked back.

“I am so happy that I chose Ole Miss, but I am happier that Ole Miss chose me.”

Along with Grove Scholars, Janeisha also has leadership roles and involvement across campus. She belongs to the University of Mississippi Minority Association of Pre-Medical Students, I.Team, College Corps, Black Student Union and is on on the executive board of Esteem. When she first got to Ole Miss, Janeisha reflects that she was painfully shy. “Grove Scholars, though, opens you up because it brings you around people who are interested in fields like you, yet we’re all different. It has opened me up to many different avenues. I have gotten to make so many different connections through all of my fellow Grove Scholars.”

When asked about what her biggest takeaway from Grove Scholars is, she answers that “we’re just one big family.”

Janeisha describes the fellowship of Grove Scholars by painting a picture of their meetings. They share news about their community, what is going on in their lives, what is going on across campus and pieces of advice. In these meetings, the Grove Scholars are also encouraged in their endeavors by Gray Flora, the Director of the program, and by different speakers who are involved in their STEM and health-related professions.

“These skills and things that we are learning are not just for our classes. We are being pushed to go out and to follow our dreams. We are constantly motivated as Grove Scholars… Looking back, I really don’t know how it happened. But, I am so grateful that I am a part of the Grove Scholars program.”

Grove Scholar Profile: Jessica Cole

Posted on: July 25th, 2018 by sapoole

April 30, 2017 – By Anne Watkins Tyson, IMC ’19

“I’m known as the bee girl. I just love bees,” Jessica Cole describes. Since starting at the University of Mississippi in the fall of 2015, she has discovered her passion for bees, science, research and teaching.

Jessica has always been drawn to science. She reminisces, “Science was always my love. And, you never forget your first.”

Cole is a Biology major with a Professional Writing minor. She discusses why she has always loved science while sitting on a picnic table outside of what has become her Ole Miss home, Hume Hall. She describes her field as attractive because you’re always learning something new.

Although Cole attended the Mississippi School of the Arts her junior and senior year of high school, living away from her hometown of Meridian, Mississippi, she figured that it would be an adjustment entering the University of Mississippi and transitioning from her high school major in Theatre to a major focused on science.

Cole credits the Grove Scholars and FASTrack programs with helping her integrate into the cohort lifestyle she wanted and needed in college.

“Even if we [Grove Scholars] don’t have the same major, we’re all tracking together during our time in school. We learn a whole lot from each other by talking about similarities and classes and life,” Cole says. When Ms. Cole is not interacting with her fellow Grove Scholars, she is serving her fellow students at writing consulting at the University of Mississippi Writing Center.

Gray Flora, Director of Grove Scholars, helped Cole find her niche at Ole Miss. She believes that if it were not for him, she would not be this path that makes her so excited and passionate about learning, researching and exploring a future in science. When asked what Grove Scholars means to her, Cole answers, “It means having someone who actually cares about my future. It is being able to communicate with like-minded people who care.” Her advisers help to make sure she is on track to graduate, but the Grove Scholars’ staff cares about all she wants to do and accomplish, even after graduation. “It’s awesome. Even if you’re awkward like me, Gray Flora looks out for me and connects me with the right people to talk to about anything and everything.”

Beginning in the Fall of 2018, Cole will attend the University of Vermont to pursue her PhD in Biology. “I’m going to grad school for bees,” she exclaims. “I really don’t think anyone ever feels prepared for grad school; yet, I know that I have all the tools I need now, to start grad school. I just won’t know how I’ll be using them until I get there.”

When asked what her dream job is, there is not a breath before she answers. She wants to be a professor at a university and have her own bee research lab. “That’s the dream,” she smiles.

“I want to make a difference in at least one student’s life in realizing her or his path. I want to help someone find their way because I am so happy now that I’ve found my way.”

Grove Scholar Profile: Myrical Taylor

Posted on: March 9th, 2018 by erabadie

March 9, 2018  | By Anne Watkins Tyson

Myrical Taylor

Myrical Taylor. Photo by Anne Watkins Tyson

Myrical Taylor grew up in Clarksdale, Mississippi, a small town in the Mississippi Delta where 40 percent of the residents live below the poverty line and where most students who graduate from her high school, Coahoma County High school, remain close to home.

Taylor was determined to change this course. Since she was a little girl, Taylor has wanted to be a nurse, and she loves to travel. She knew that college was her first step. She is so sure of her desire to be a nurse that when she goes to the doctor, she asks for a nurse practitioner.

“I like to see what I’ll be doing one day.”

Coming to Ole Miss was an easy decision for two reasons. First, both of her older brothers graduated from Ole Miss, so it was natural for her to follow their footsteps. Second, Grove Scholars reached out to her during her senior year and asked if she wanted to start college early. She said, “Of course!”

Taylor is now a senior majoring in Psychology, with a minor in Sociology. Her next step is nursing school, which she hopes to enter in the fall.

Taylor graduated from her county’s public high school with 60 other students. She describes her high school experience as enjoyable, but that she did not receive all the resources that many of her peers at Ole Miss received. She feels like she had to work twice as hard as others when she arrived at Ole Miss; but, since her freshman year she has had the resources, the mentors and the encouragement to do the work.

Taylor has traveled often in the past year and had many eye-opening experiences, especially in large cities where she came face to face with many homeless people.

“This made me realize that I want to use my skills and my education to work together with different people in creating facilities to help homeless people. They don’t just need medical help, though. Many need psychological help.”

Taylor never thought that her passion would be homelessness. She now has a different perspective on where her education will take her than when she began her journey at Ole Miss. She wants to help homeless people get off the street, help with their illnesses and help to make their lives better.

The Grove Scholars program has been a great backbone for Taylor. “It has given me a sense of community,” she says. “We all come from the same type of environment.”

She talks about how significant it has been to be a part of Grove Scholars, a small and close-knit community in the much larger community of Ole Miss. From Grove Scholars community meetings to the many resources at her fingertips to one-on-one meetings with Director Gray Flora to the other endless opportunities, Grove Scholars has helped to keep Taylor on her track to success.

Taylor was not used to being a part of such a big place. In comparison, the University of Mississippi and Oxford are much larger than Clarksdale.

“Just like what could have happened to me at Ole Miss, homeless people can be swept under the rug in big cities. I want to help them find their place in their community.”

After graduation, Taylor will head to Memphis, TN where she will enroll at the University of Tennessee Health Sciences’ Accelerated Nursing program.

Grove Scholar Profile: Deshauntra Green

Posted on: May 22nd, 2017 by erabadie

MAY 25, 2017  |  By BRITTANEE WALLACE (BA IMC ’17)

Photo by Anne Watkins Tyson

Deshauntra Green, a junior from Fayette, Mississippi. Photo by Brittanee Wallace

Afternoon light pours into Coulter Hall, a second home for chemistry students like Deshauntra Green.

“Over the course of the three years I’ve been here at Ole Miss, I have been given such a sense of community.”

A Fayette, Mississippi native, Deshauntra is a junior Forensic Chemistry major. She minors in Math and is a part of the Grove Scholar program.

She gravitated to Ole Miss when she heard about the Forensic Chemistry program and how it was nationally recognized.

Then, on Deshauntra’s way home from orientation, she got a call from one of the deans of the College of Liberal Arts, offering her a chance to go to summer school before her freshmen year as a Grove Scholar.

“Sure, why not?” she answered.

While taking her summer courses, Deshauntra undoubtedly fell in love with Ole Miss.

Fellow members of the Grove Scholars were the first people she met at Ole Miss.

“They have become my best friends. We relieve stress together. We get each other.”

Gray Flora, current Direct of the GS, is a mentor to all of the Grove Scholars, gearing the students towards success. The class above Deshauntra’s class are her peer mentors.

“We are a ‘family’ and it has been beneficial to me in so many ways. I turn to my mentors for everything: how to apply for jobs, how to handle a program, how to deal with scholarships, how to plan our schedules, how to balance the load, etc.”

She dreams of becoming a toxicologist for either the DEA or the FBI.

“It just so happens that most Grove Scholars are really involved all around campus.”

Involved is an understatement for Deshauntra. In addition to being a Grove Scholar, she is a peer mentor for FASTrack, President of the Ole Miss chapter of the National Organization for the Professional Advancement of Black Chemists and Chemical Engineers (NOBCChE), Teaching Assistant for the Chemistry department, and works at the Jackson Avenue Center Mathematics Lab.

Deshauntra wants to see Grove Scholars’ profile raised on campus. “We were chosen. It has been an honor to be a Grove Scholar.”

Grove Scholar Profile: Tiara Mabry

Posted on: May 22nd, 2017 by erabadie

MAY 25, 2017  |  By BRITTANEE WALLACE (BA IMC ’17)

Photo by Anne Watkins Tyson

Tiara Mabry, Graduate of the Grove Scholars Program from Tupelo, Mississippi. Photo by Brittanee Wallace

Tiara Mabry’s leadership has established a lasting legacy on the campus of the University of Mississippi. She entered the university with her sights set on pursuing a career that allowed her to promote wellness practices, and established many connections by becoming very involved on campus.

The Tupelo native hit the campus involvement scene confidently her freshman year. Some of her activities include MedLife member, Green Grove ambassador, and University of Mississippi M.O.S.T. Mentor. Mabry says that becoming involved helped enhance her interpersonal skills, but she does encourage future Grove Scholars to assess their time commitments.

“Make sure the things you are involved in are the things you are invested in,” Mabry said.

She has been invested in Grove Scholars since the summer of 2013 where she served as president. As president, Mabry developed leadership skills and identified resources to assist her in the refining of her interest in patient care.

Mabry is the eldest of her siblings and she cared for them since they were young. She credits her grandparents for instilling her with empathy for people.

“I have a lot of grandparents. One of my grandmothers used to work with mentally handicapped, my other grandmother works at the women’s hospital, and my other grandmother works in the battered women and children’s shelter in Tupelo. The desire to help others runs deep in my family,” Mabry said.

Mabry has chosen midwifery as her vehicle for steering patients toward positive experiences with healthcare. Tiara was admitted into the nursing program at the University of Mississippi and will complete this program next July. After receiving her Bachelor of Science in Nursing she plans to pursue a masters degree so that one day she is able to open her own clinic.

Grove Scholars has played an integral part in shaping Mabry’s leadership skills and as vice president of Sigma Gamma Rho Sorority, Incorporated she’s had ample opportunities to exercise them. She encourages young Grove Scholars to establish connections and take advantage of resources offered through the program.

“Good vibes and positive energy. In college you’re already stressed out about so many different things it’s important to remember that there is some good vibes and positive energy out there and if you just pass a little love around it would be so much easier,” Mabry said.


Grove Scholar Profile: Jontae Warren

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by erabadie


Jontae Warren

For as long as he can remember Jontae has loved science. Photo by Brittanee Wallace

Jontae Warren hears the soft voice of his grandmother wishing him a good night. Moments later, tiny footsteps make the wood floor creek as an exhausted pre-schooler sneaks into the kitchen. He grabs his bedtime essentials: milk, cookies, and a Bill Nye the Science Guy picturebook.

Although his late night readings have cultivated into the reading level of a junior pharmacy student, the common theme of his passion since boyhood is simple; A love for science.

A Booneville, Miss. native, Jontae, has been attending the University of Mississippi every summer since he was in the 8th grade.

“Ever since I grew up I always knew that I wanted to be something in the science area. It started out very general when I was little I would say, I want to be a scientist, mix something, invent something, but then as I got older I started being more specific,” Warren said.

As a young boy, Warren wanted to be a gastroenterologist, but as he learned more about the duties of that career his interest shifted to genetics. Having another change of heart, he decided upon his current major as a pharmacist because he could still help people absent the responsibility of surgery.

Jontae Warren’s summer involvement drove him to Ole Miss.

“ Well when I started coming to summer academy I was going into the 8th grade, after my junior year of high school I came to summer college, and then jump start and it just so happened that the major I decided to go under they (Ole Miss) had one of the best ones.”

His involvement with summer programs has not ended as a full-time student, but instead expanded. He serves as a summer college counselor, and continues his involvement with Grove Scholars. He also actively serves in several student organizations and honor societies: PediaRebs, Phi Delta Chi, University of Mississippi Gospel Choir, Phi Kappa Phi, Gamma Beta Phi, NSC (national society collegiate scholars), Grove Scholars, Golden Key, Competition corp-high school academic competition, and Provost Scholars.

With such a high level of campus involvement and academic responsibilities Warren says that Grove Scholars has played an integral part in his success at the University of Mississippi.

“Grove Scholars is a community, I have people that I can talk to if I have an issue or an accomplishment to share. Gray (Grove Scholars advisor) is very good at having people come and speak to all of us. He tries to find someone that is geared toward all of our majors to help us see what is out there in the world.”

Warren looks forward to exploring the pharmaceutical world as he completes his last semester of his undergraduate degree and continues work on multiple research projects. His white coat ceremony is in August and he knows that his family, friends, and grove scholar cohorts will attend.

Grove Scholar Profile: Rashad Collier

Posted on: March 29th, 2017 by erabadie


Rashad Collier

Rashad Collier, a junior from Greenville, Mississippi. Photo by Anne Watkins Tyson

Sitting on the steps of the Lyceum, Rashad Collier reflects on a program that has meant so much during his time at his beloved University.

“The Grove Scholars program is built off of students who are from less fortunate parts of Mississippi, like me.”

Rashad, a junior computer science major from Greenville, Mississippi, started his search for schools thinking he would major in pre-med.

“Being a doctor would make my people proud.”

Then, Rashad received an email from “the Grove Scholars guy” about an upcoming program that provides an opportunity to start college early in the summer. Through Grove Scholars, Rashad was introduced to a lot of people and he learned about other academic programs, where he discovered and ended up seeing his passion was for computer science and that Ole Miss was the place to feed it.

He saw that this passion could thrive at Ole Miss.

Rashad hopes to utilize his computer science major to pursue a career in video game design.

Rashad hopes to utilize his computer science major to pursue a career in video game design.

Rashad is engaged all over campus. All of the scholars are encouraged to be involved, and he has done just that. He is the current President of Grove Scholars, a community desk assistant, a teaching assistant, a community assistant (UMCA) in two dorms, and belongs to Men of Excellence and the Columns Society.

Rashad joined the Grove Scholars in its second year, when the program was getting its feet off the ground with plans and offices. Now, there are three cohorts of Grove Scholars, and he has dreams “to continue to expand the program’s circles.”

His favorite thing about is the community that comes from being a Grove Scholar. He and the other 34 scholars meet biweekly.

Rashad’s dream job is to create video games.

“In less-funded areas of Mississippi, like my home, the only things adolescent kids think they have to do is bad stuff — drinking, drugs, guns, etc. They need an escape.”

Rashad says that his video games are the answer. The games will be fun and provide youth with joy, happiness and life lessons that they might not learn from other places.

Rashad has dreams, and the GSP is a big part of them. When the program receives new members, he wants there to always be connections and information that they can utilize.

It is a shared goal for all the Scholars to make the program known around campus. Members are in fraternities, sororities, clubs, organizations, jobs, societies, athletics and more. Rashad speaks about how with the community of GS and how it covers all aspects of campus, they have the opportunity to do a lot of networking and spread the word about the GSP.

The GSP opened windows and doors to life opportunities beyond where he grew up, so now he wants “Grove Scholars to get to the point where we are touching every single part of the campus.”