Wallace State’s employees officially kicked off the beginning of the 2018-19 academic year last week at the college’s annual Convocation, welcoming Brittany Wagner as the keynote speaker.

Wagner earned worldwide fame as an academic counselor at East Mississippi Community College through the popular Netflix series “Last Chance U.” Wagner was heavily featured during the first two seasons as the football team’s academic counselor before transitioning into her new career as the founder of Thousand Pencils, LLC, an academic counseling and consultant service for student-athletes across the country.

“I’m honored to be at Wallace State and this brings back memories of my junior college Convocations. My goal is to inspire you and for you to leave this meeting feeling like you can make a difference this year,” said Wagner, a Mississippi native who now lives in Birmingham. “The fact that I’m standing in front of you today was because of something bigger than me. I firmly believe that. We all have a purpose and a plan and have no idea where it will take us.”

Before working at East Mississippi Community College, Wagner served as an academic counselor at Mississippi State. She discussed the life lessons she’s learned through her advising career and the athletes, coaches and counterparts who have inspired and influenced her throughout the journey.

Especially at the community college realm, Wagner emphasized how some students may have the opportunity to finally eat three meals per day or spend the night away from home for the first time.

“Junior colleges have a unique opportunity to give individuals an education that has nothing to do with curriculum. We can be remembered by how we treat them and allow them to show up for who they are and grow them from there. This upcoming academic year is the first time some of your students are experiencing an opportunity or an education. You have an amazing opportunity to provide the vision and hope that so many our young people don’t have otherwise,” Wagner said.

One of Wagner’s catchphrases on “Last Chance U” was “Do you have a pencil?” and she believes community college employees can have an immense impact on students, even if it’s as simple as offering them a pencil.

“We have to be a part of the solution and not the problem. We can’t judge people. We have to know them for who they are and not what they’ve done. I believe everyone has the right to an education and a second chance,” Wagner said.

Select Wallace State employees were recognized for various achievements.

Adrian Scott was named the Employee of the Year. Scott is chair of Wallace State’s Art/Visual Communications program.

Jamie Blackmon of Career Services was recognized for the Innovation of the Year after she established the Career Services Guidebook.

Christine Wiggins and Karen Morris were recognized for their selection earlier this year as 2018 NISOD Excellence Awards recipients.

Dana Adams was recognized for being among the inaugural Dale P. Parnell Distinguished Faculty Award winners in March, and Wes Rakestraw was honored for being Wallace State’s latest faculty recipient of the John and Suanne Roueche Excellence Award.

The college’s latest Leadership Wallace State graduates were also recognized, adding to the college’s goal to cultivate leaders in programs and departments all across campus. The 2017-18 Leadership Wallace State group consisted of Brian Allen, Jamie Blackmon, Susan Brewer, Stephanie Eisner, Tina Jones, Ericka Lee, Amy Moore, Mark Neal, Anna Parrish, John Richey, Steve Smith, Amanda Tillman, Susan Wadkins and Daniel Young.

Wallace State’s FOCUS (Follow One Course Until Successful) members over the past year were Cynthia Arrington, Sallie Beth Burch, Kristy Burkhart, A.J. Daugherty, Stephanie Eisner, Timothy Entrekin, Racheal Howze, Carla Jarrett, Jennifer Lambert, Brandi Parker, Devan Ponder, Tyler Roden, Penny Rodgers, Sara Tidwell, Susan Wadkins, Neal Whitlock and Daniel Young.

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