SCOOBA — East Mississippi Community College is reaching out to alumni, community members, industry and business leaders and fans of “Last Chance U” to seek support for a crowdfunding campaign to create a space dedicated to helping students attain their educational dreams.
“We are achieving great things at East Mississippi Community College thanks in large part to the support we have received from our alumni and friends,” EMCC President Dr. Thomas Huebner said. “We need to stay focused on our mission to ensure that our students excel during their time with us and beyond. We are asking our past partners and new-found friends from ‘Last Chance U’ to help us build on our legacy of success both in the classroom and on the football field.”
The college is accepting donations for an Academic Success Center at the Scooba campus to provide centralized services for advising, mentoring, tutoring and other retention programs designed to help students stay in school. Money is also needed to hire tutors and purchase computers and other equipment.
“Many of our students face difficult challenges and it is our mission to ensure that they are equipped with the support and resources needed to overcome those challenges,” Huebner said. “The Academic Success Center will help us guide them on their pathway to success.”
The scope of the project will be determined by the generosity of donors. EMCC maintenance workers are renovating a wing of the Hawkins Career-Technical Building. Once completed, that space will be used for the Academic Success Center.
Hopes are, however, to raise enough money to gut and renovate an unused building on the Scooba campus that once housed the college’s former cafeteria. Located across from the administration building, the facility boasts 10,208 square feet of space that if renovated could be used for the Academic Success Center.
“It is a good building that could really go a long way in providing our students with the services they need if it was repurposed,” EMCC Assistant Vice President for Athletic Development Marcus Wood said.
EMCC has garnered international attention from Netflix’s award-winning docuseries “Last Chance U,” which is in its second season and follows a group of Lions’ football players and coaches during their 2015 and 2016 championship bids.
A gridiron powerhouse, over the last decade the Lions have earned three national championships and five state titles, while serving as an athletic conduit for both the NFL and four-year schools.
While “Last Chance U” fans are intimately familiar with the school’s prowess on the football field, many may not be aware that the school has produced four Major League Baseball Draft picks in the last 4 years and a College Nationals Finals Rodeo champion last year, just to name a couple of accomplishments from other athletic programs.
Student academic successes includes two state championship titles in the Mississippi DECA Winter Leadership Conference and Competition last March; back-to-back national championship wins in the automotive division of the SkillUSA Championships the past 2 years; and eight state championship titles in the Mississippi SkillsUSA this year, to name a few. EMCC’s Eta Upsilon chapter of Phi Theta Kappa was named among the nation’s top 100 chapters in the nation last April and two EMCC students were chosen as Coca Cola scholars earlier this year from a worldwide pool of applicants.
EMCC earned NJCAA Softball Academic Team of the Year titles in the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years. This year, Mallory Vance earned the Pinnacle Award for Academic Excellence for maintaining a perfect 4.0 grade point average.
Vance, who graduated in May and is enrolled in the University of Mississippi’s Master of Occupational Therapy program, said faculty at EMCC were always ready to lend a hand.
“If I ever had any questions, they were always available,” Vance said. “The teachers at EMCC want us to learn and to succeed. They want us to not just be better students but to be better people as well.”
Huebner said the relationship between faculty and students is what helps make EMCC unique.
“We are a small, rural college without an overabundance of resources,” Huebner said. “And yet here we are producing some of the best athletes and scholars in the nation. Part of that success can be attributed to the passion and dedication of our faculty and staff. Many fans of ‘Last Chance U’ said they were moved by the genuine care for our athletes’ wellbeing exhibited by some EMCC employees featured on the program. What they might not know is that all of the faculty and staff who work at EMCC feel the same way about the students they interact with on a daily basis. Because we are not a large college, our students become like family and our mission to help them succeed is a shared passion.”
And it is that commitment to improve the lives of EMCC students that is driving the effort to create an Academic Success Center, Wood said.
“People can make a huge difference in the lives of our students on a grander scale than just athletics,” Wood said.
“Our legacy will one day be measured by the successes of our students and the impact they leave on the world we leave to them,” Huebner said. “We are asking those who help us fund a new Academic Success Center to share in that legacy.”