Hazlehurst native graduates MC with Military Friendly program

Published 1:21 pm Thursday, March 9, 2023

When Ramonica Felton returned from her seven-month deployment to Al Dhafra Air Base in the United Arab Emirates with the Mississippi Air National Guard in 2021, the Mississippi College student had one goal: to graduate by December 2022.

It was a tall order for the Hazlehurst native, but the wife and mother had faced a much tougher challenge overseas: during her deployment, she assisted in the pullout from Afghanistan.

Now home in Mississippi, she wanted to obtain a Bachelor of Science in administration of justice — without losing any time. She found that MC was willing to work with her to achieve her academic goal.

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“I was excited and determined — it wasn’t the easiest thing to do,” Felton said. “When things got tough, I did as my professors asked and notified them – every professor I had understood and gave me the necessary time to complete assignments.

“They supported my military obligations and thanked me for my service.”

Felton made the Dean’s List every semester attending MC, before and after her deployment. In addition to her responsibilities at home and working nights in a position of great responsibility with the guard, she accomplished her goal of receiving her undergraduate degree last December.

“Due to the demands of the military, there’s nothing like having an institution that understands the missions we are called to fulfill,” Felton said. “First and foremost, I wasn’t able to do anything without God on my side. I was mentally up for the challenge and determined to meet all my goals.

“I learned a long time ago that first, you have to be willing to do what it takes to succeed and have your mindset to get it done. Mississippi College’s core values, mission, and beliefs align with who I am.”

Felton was one of 221 students in fall 2022 identified as veterans at Mississippi College. Its continuing commitment to students serving in the armed forces has been acknowledged by the national Military Friendly© program, which has once again selected the Christian University as a Military Friendly© Silver School for the 2023-24 Military Friendly© Cycle.

According to its website, “Military Friendly© Schools strive towards and succeed in the areas that matter most in helping veterans make the transition from the military to school, and, ultimately, satisfying careers in the civilian world.” Mississippi College has achieved Military Friendly status several times since the program was founded in 2003.

According to Teresa Hill, director of Military and Veteran Student Services, the Military Friendly© designation is recognized as a national standard of quality.

“When a veteran or military student is seeking a place to continue their educational path, having this designation is like a beacon that tells them quickly that Mississippi College is a potential fit,” Hill said. “Being designated as a Military Friendly© school is in response to a very intensive survey conducted voluntarily by MC based upon our current activity and processes that are in place for our military and veteran population.

“The ranking is important because it gives institutions recognition for upholding and meeting benchmark standards that are weighted equally for all institutions.”

Hill said military members are drawn to MC because they share common values.

“As followers of Christ, MC builds and encourages ways for students to put others first,” she said. “Any individual who has served — and their spouses, their children, and their families – have put the greater good of our nation’s safety and security at the helm of their current life choices.

“Service members have a heart for service, which resonates strongly with military and veteran students at our University searching for the right place to take the next step in higher education.”

Chris Pate, a third-year graduate student in MC’s Physician Assistant Program, is a prime example. After seven years of active service in the U.S. Army, the Indianola native ticked off a number of reasons why he chose the Christian University to pursue his Master of Science in Medicine.

“MC accepts VA education benefits, MC has a wonderful veteran coordinator, MC is close to home, and MC has a Physician Assistant Program that is incredibly effective at training PAs,” Pate said. “I feel as though MC has been able to facilitate most aspects of my educational experience and needs – including finance and tuition, academics, housing and meals, and orientation.

“Some of MC’s courses have been surprisingly rigorous. I’m very thankful for that. MC has the toughest anatomy course I’ve ever attended, and I have learned so much more from that course alone than from any of my prior training and college courses.”

As a disabled veteran, the VA acknowledges he has post-traumatic stress disorder and other ailments, including lumbar degeneration and tinnitus. Pate appreciates the support he has received from faculty, staff, and administrators at MC.

“Everyone has been quite friendly and understanding,” he said. “MC has graciously adhered to ADA policies and guidelines by acknowledging my status and providing testing accommodations.

“I am very thankful to attend this school.”

In addition to facilitating the use of VA Education Benefits, Hill said MC has supported the military by:

* Offering a discounted Military Tuition Rate for active military and reserves of all branches of service;

* Encouraging active military student service members to initiate Federal Tuition Assistance, which often encompasses much of the discounted rate, if elected (based on eligibility for enlisted service) – this discounted rate is not “stackable” with other scholarships or discounts;

* Partnering with Jackson State University in Army and Air Force ROTC programs for students seeking to become commissioned as officers upon graduation or completion of their degrees with a commitment to serve in that capacity for eight years; and

* Serving as a “Yellow Ribbon School” participant for VA Chapter 33 Post 9/11-GI Bill recipients at 100-percent eligibility – MC matches the VA’s contribution (up to $5,000) for a maximum collective contribution of $10,000 above the annual cap for private institutions of higher learning.

From the organization of an extracurricular “military school” and military companies in the 1880s, to the Choctaw band’s 1930 designation as the official band of the National Guard of Mississippi, to the V-12 Navy College Training Program that helped prepare students for officer training school during World War II, MC’s commitment to students serving in the armed forces has been second to none.

About 2,000 organizations nationwide compete for the Military Friendly© designation. Their ratings are based on three sources: publicly available data from several federal agencies that monitor higher education institutions or federal contractors; proprietary survey data gathered through the Military Friendly© survey data verification process; and personal opinion data and feedback from veterans themselves, collected through a short survey.