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Indianola Graduates Speak Out

Julien Whitfield
University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff
Mass communication & broadcast
journalism major
Indianola Gentry High School Class of 2016

“I used to be shy and quiet and behind the scenes, and that was fine with me. Then I joined the Indianola Youth Council.”

At 14, Julien joined the youth program sponsored by the Indianola Promise Community and his world soon changed.

“In Youth Council, I feel like they saw something in me and taught me to speak out and really pushed me to be a leader and blaze my own trail.”

Whitfield credits his involvement in the Youth Council, as well as IPC’s Art of Living Smart Summer Camp, Children in the Zone Summer Camp and IPC Data Team as preparing him for life after high school: “All of the programs have helped me tremendously in college in understanding the importance of talking with my professors and communicating with others.”

 

Jayla Sibley
Senior
Indianola Gentry High School

Since the 9th grade, when Jayla joined the Indianola Youth Council, she has been involved in a cadre of IPC programs and projects, including serving as an intern with IPC’s Parent Liaison Program and with the CARES (Children Are Reaching Excellence with Support) mentoring program. She was also a camper at Project RISE, or Reading Improvements for Success in Education; and served in the Mayor’s Diversity Group.

One of her favorite accomplishments is the creation of the “Get Inspired” project to motivate youth to have a stronger voice in their community: “The idea is to build leadership skills and create safe zones for students to be able to just sit together and share their thoughts and be free to express their feelings and fears. I see young kids being led the wrong way, looking for the easy way. I see it on social media. But that’s not life. Get Inspired is a way to help them find the right direction.”

Through rallies and working with schools, Jayla wants to establish those “safe spaces” at Indianola’s community garden, BB King Park, Gentry High School and Merritt Middle School. She plans to use social media in a more positive way to get more young people involved in her project.

 

Tatyanna Culpepper
Millsaps College, Jackson, Mississippi
Criminology major
Indianola Gentry High School Class of 2017

Everyone needs a mentor; a role model they can look to for guidance and help. Tatyanna Culpepper has been blessed with three. Growing up, and as she transitioned in 2017 from high school to a freshman in college, Tatyanna sought the counsel of her mother, along with a fellow college student from Indianola and an IPC project coordinator. “All three have meant the world to me,” said Tatyanna. “I look back and know that I wouldn’t be where I am today without them.”

Her mom has served as her “number one role model” followed by Samesa Hoskins, an older friend and student at Millsaps College; and Shequite Johnson, who served as IPC’s community liaison for the Teen Pregnancy Prevention Program: “Samesa and I served together on the Indianola Youth Council my 9th-grade year. Before I came to Millsaps, I went to her for advice on how to manage my finances and my time, and how to navigate myself through college life. To this day, she is a mentor to me.” Johnson, she said, has served as a “motherly role model along with my mom. She taught me how to be productive and organized.”

 

Tar’Frederick Fant
Barber
Owner of Next Level Barbershop
Indianola Gentry High School Class of 2013

Two acronyms have had a big impact in Tar’Frederick Fant’s life: GREAT and DREAMS, two of IPC’s programs.

The first has allowed him to fulfill his quest of becoming a barber. The second is allowing him to ensure his journey continues. Through GREAT, or Getting Ready to Excel, Achieve and Triumph, Tar’Frederick completed a program of classroom study and practical experience that put him in position to become a state-licensed barber, all at no cost to him. The program has enabled Tar’Frederick to meet his goals and dreams of owning his own styling shop: “I feel like I’m the best barber in the world, I want the chance to show people that. IPC and GREAT have been very important to me to get my start. I’m very thankful for them.”

To help ensure his success as a barber, Tar’Frederick also enrolled in the DREAMS program, or Dollars Reinvested in Education and Assets to Maximize Success. DREAMS provides matching funds to assist Sunflower County residents and business owners with the purchase of a first home, post-secondary education or training, or capital for a qualified business. For Tar’Frederick, the DREAMS program can mean as much as $6,000 in combination with money he is saving himself.

 

Samesa Hoskins
Millsaps College, Jackson, Mississippi
Political Science major
Indianola Gentry High School Class of 2014

In the fall of 2017, Samesa Hoskins found herself far from home. Yucatan, Mexico, was never in her thoughts as a teenager growing up in Indianola. But no matter the distance or where she finds herself, Samesa knows one day she’ll be coming home.

A senior at Millsaps College in Jackson, the 21-year-old political science major traveled to Mexico through the school’s fall scholarship program. Looking back, she said, the foundation for her success was laid through her involvement with IPC. From her service as president of the Indianola Youth Council to her summer internship, Samesa said those experiences have prepared her for the future: “The best way to describe the impact it’s had on me is: Confidence, awareness and support. If it wasn’t for Youth Council, I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have today. It taught me to have the initiative to do these things like the semester in Mexico.”

Samesa joined the Youth Council just after her 17th birthday and quickly ascended to the group’s top spot. The leadership skills she gleaned has helped her throughout college, she said. After she graduates, she said she may take a year off from her studies before going to law school. IPC and its dedicated staff have helped make it possible, she said, “IPC unlocked the ‘why’ in my life. Why I want all these things. I couldn’t be luckier to have had all these people from IPC who supported me along the way. They are sincere and they care about their jobs and I haven’t seen many people like that.”

In addition to her service on the Youth Council and internship, Samesa took advantage of IPC’s College Readiness/ACT Prep and BART (Becoming a Responsible Teen) programs, and she worked to help ensure the growth of Indianola’s community garden. Combined, those programs have given her a unique and positive perspective on life. “When it comes to awareness, my drive in life is to play it forward. I want to help and defend those who can’t help themselves,” she said. “I want to come back to Indianola and get involved in government in Mississippi. We have to have more people taking a stand for what they believe. That’s my goal.”