December 15, 2023

Hinds CC Fall 2023 marks a new beginning for Diesel Academy graduate

"I never have to have that fear again, that fear of ‘how am I going to take care of my family?’ I have everything I need to succeed.”
BY: Rhonda Dunaway

PEARL – When Hinds Community College Diesel Academy graduate Tabatha Scott arrived in Jackson she was an electrician, but she’d been warned that Mississippi was a tough place for females to get contract work and equal pay. But she came here for the reason many people do, because of family.

“I originally moved to Mississippi because my 14-year-old niece was diagnosed with brain cancer and was given 13 months to live,” Scott said. “I wanted to be here for my sister and my niece through this hard time in their lives.”

She became a Jacksonian and lives in the Fondren district. She initially started looking for work as an electrician. In Tampa Bay, Fla., she was a union member with Journeyman classification in the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 915. This is a top tier classification in the IBEW, and it signifies excellence and experience.

She made a visit to the local chapter of the IBEW and was told “there ain’t no contractors ‘round here willing to hire a female.”

“After getting over the shock that in today’s world I could still be discriminated against like this, the reality of what it meant for me was a hard pill to swallow. I’m a single mom, and, at the time, I had a two-year-old and a four-year-old to raise,” Scott said.

She decided she wouldn’t be defeated. She knew she couldn’t afford to accept minimum wage. And she also knew that not having a high school diploma was hurting her chances of getting hired. She went in search of teachers and advice, finding them at the Hinds Community College’s Jackson Campus, where she enrolled in the Smart Start program.

Through the Mississippi Department of Education, Smart Start gives adult students with a set of trade skills like Scott a chance to earn a high school equivalency certificate. Scott earned her National Career Readiness Certificate (NCRC) in 2021. The NCRC shows that the participant has the basic skills needed to be successful on the job.

Her next step was to get certified in her trade. But she discovered Hinds’ Diesel Academy and decided to switch gears and study diesel mechanics instead of searching for electrical work.

“My dad was a diesel mechanic and made a good living for us, so I thought, ‘Here’s an opportunity to follow in his footsteps,’” Scott said.

Now, two years later and a few certifications along the way, Scott graduated from Hinds Community College on Dec. 14 with an Associate degree in Diesel Technology and with academic honors, earning a membership into Phi Theta Kappa. She has American Equipment Distributors (AED) certification, which certifies her as a diesel equipment technician. She also earned certification in the Automotive Service Excellence (ASE)-Medium/Heavy Truck division.

“I’m in a place now, in Mississippi, and because of Hinds, that I can go to work for any of these larger companies and make a good living. I never have to have that fear again, that fear of ‘how am I going to take care of my family?’ I have everything I need to succeed,” she said.

Scott walked across the stage at graduation ceremonies Dec. 14 along with about 600 other graduates in the Clyde Muse Center on the Rankin Campus in Pearl.

In his remarks, Hinds President Dr. Stephen Vacik advised graduates to be steadfast in their work going forward.

“Too many people today jump around from job to job and relationship to relationship rather than putting in the required effort and waiting on the outcomes,” Dr. Vacik said. “Here’s the thing, life is messy, in case you don’t already know that. If you don’t stick with it during the times when running away or quitting would be easier, then you will miss out on all the good things and the many blessings.”

This fall Hinds awarded 879 degrees and certificates to 577 Hinds graduates, which means many graduates earned more than one community college credential.  

Among those, 123 graduated Cum Laude, having maintained a 3.2 – 3.59 GPA; 74 students graduated Magna Cum Laude, having maintained a 3.6 – 3.99 GPA and 20 graduated Summa Cum Laude with a perfect 4.0 GPA.