JSU student and administrator bring home MAEOPP Awards

Jackson State University senior Kelsei Scott and Associate Vice President for Student Success Mitchell Shears, Ed.D. are among the 2022 recipients of scholarships and awards to deserving TRIO participants and professionals by the Mississippi Association of Educational Opportunity Program Personnel (MAEOPP).

Scott, a journalism and media studies major, received a $500 scholarship. Shears, who also serves as executive director of Title III at JSU, was named the 2022 TRIO Achiever. 

“Kelsei was selected based on her academic success, service and her impeccable essay submitted,” said Kimberly Bee, president of MAEOPP. “From her application, we understood that she possesses many leadership skills and exhibits what we are compassionate about in TRIO, which is leading low-income and first-generation students to complete a postsecondary degree.”

Scott joined TRIO Student Support Services (SSS) in 2020 as one of its inaugural participants. The Baker, Louisiana, native is also a Thurgood Marshall College Fund Scholar, a resident assistant, a member of JSU’s MADDRAMMA Performance Troupe, and a staff writer for JSU’s The Blue & White Flash and Experience magazine. 

“I am excited about all of the opportunities that the TRIO program consistently affords us as participants. The program staff are always sharing scholarship opportunities with us and they guide us through the process to ensure that we are successful. It is up to us to take advantage of the opportunities. As you can see, I take full advantage of them and I’m proud to be both a TRIO and a SSS success story.” 

Scott was recently named an HBCU Scholar for the White House Initiative on Educational Equity, Excellence and Economic Development through HBCUs Program. The HBCU student recognition program honors current HBCU students for their excellence and willingness to compete for top opportunities that improve living standards in their communities.

Shears, who captured the MAEOPP 2022 TRIO Achiever Award, has dedicated his time, talent and treasure to TRIO since 1991. 

“Dr. Shears was nominated by a previous employee, and he was selected based on his passion, dedication, and enthusiasm for education,” said Bee. “He has benefitted as a high school and college TRIO participant, served as a summer employee with TRIO programs, and now leads TRIO programs. In five years, he has written 17 TRIO proposals awarded to four institutions in Mississippi.”

Shears’ nomination letter was submitted by Dr. Donnell Bell, a JSU alum and Upward Bound director at Hinds Community College – Utica Campus, where Shears formerly worked. Bell said it was exciting to nominate someone he once referred to as a student and later as his immediate supervisor.

Bell described Shears as a TRIO Overachiever who is widely known in Mississippi as an innovative leader and gaining a reputation as the Mississippi TRIO grant writer. 

“Writing these grants is mind-boggling, but as I think about the many students impacted by the services. The benefits are so powerful,” Shears said. “The TRIO programs provide opportunities for students that we sometimes take for granted. The program exposed me to college life early through its six-week summer residential program, cultural field trips in and out of state, the summer bridge component, monthly stipends and ACT waivers, and assistance with completing the FAFSA and college applications.”

Shears added that he is very grateful to be recognized by colleagues in Mississippi who do this work daily. As a first-generation college graduate, Shears credits his participation in both Upward Bound at Hinds Community College – Utica Campus and Student Support Services at Alcorn State University as a major impact in receiving his bachelor’s, master’s, educational specialist and doctoral degrees. 

 “Dr. Shears is a personal testimony of not only benefiting from a TRIO program, but the impact has been so great that he desires to spread the TRIO benefits and opportunities to so many students in Mississippi,” Bee added. “This is only one way we could show our appreciation to him.”

Shears spent much of his time volunteering with UB during his undergraduate studies. After graduating, he used his talent as an educator to teach in the UB program. Upon becoming a professional while working as a community college and university administrator from 2017-2022, he has been awarded a total of 12 TRIO grants – eight at Hinds Community College and six at Jackson State University. He has also dedicated his energy to raising funds and supporting a First-Generation Scholarship Fund at Jackson State University with his personal finances.

Because of Shears’ desire to help other first-generation college students and disadvantaged and underrepresented groups in Mississippi, he has assisted Alcorn State University with their two TRIO Talent Search awards and Coahoma Community College with their recent TRIO Upward Bound award.

TRIO Achievers are alumni of TRIO programs who successfully completed one of the federally funded TRIO programs; a person of high stature within his or her professional or have received recognition for outstanding academic achievement; be employed above the entry-level designation for his or her profession; have made significant civic, community or professional contributions; demonstrate that participation in the respective TRIO project has a significant impact upon obtaining his or her educational and/or professional objectives; and must be nominated from a TRIO staff member.