Hinds Community College Utica Campus sophomore and Jackson native Donald Hughes is really starting to get adjusted to our “new normal.”

“At first, it was a little bit different but I have gotten used to the assignments the instructors have been posting,” he said. “I’ve been able to schedule everything and kind of get acquainted with Zoom lectures. And I have learned how to better pace myself throughout the week.”

On March 23, Hinds joined colleges across the state by shifting to an online learning format. This is in response to the rising cases of COVID-19 across the state of Mississippi as well as the nation.

Hughes said the change did not come as a surprise to him. “When I saw what was going on, I kind of figured we were going to transition to online learning eventually,” Hughes, 19. “I was prepared for what was to come so I wasn’t too surprised. I got used to the new process fairly quickly.”

While Hughes said the adjustment has been fairly simple and quick for him, he says his instructors have really stepped up to help ease the process. He said he has countless emails and videos from instructors telling him how to finish assignments and how to navigate the new system.

However, Hughes says his STEM coordinator Dr. Carrie Kirkland has been providing a special kind of support. “Dr. Kirkland has sent emails that keep us up to date on what is happening around campus. She also sends motivational emails and encourages us to stay on track,” he said.

Dr. Kirkland said she believes it is important to let her students know that she is still there for them. “I am accustomed to seeing them face to face and asking how they are doing and if there is anything I can do,” she said. “Now that we are virtual — and being a Computer Scientist — I understand how to properly communicate virtually, which is why those emails reassure them I am still here.”

Hughes has really made the most out of his time at Hinds. He has participated in Student Government as Mr. Utica, been a part of a week-long experience during the NASA Community College Aerospace Scholars program and participated in a number of community service projects as a member of the Utica Campus chapter of Phi Theta Kappa. Many would never know his start here came out of necessity.

Initially, to be honest, coming out of high school, I did not have many scholarship opportunities. The first school I wanted to attend did not give me a large enough scholarship, and my whole goal was to not pay for college,” said Hughes, who is studying biology as an aspiring pre-med major.

After he applied to Alcorn and received a partial scholarship, a friend’s mom gave him the advice he needed. “She told me about the STEM program at Hinds and they fully funded my education,” Hughes recalled.

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Hughes said Hinds gave him the chance to live on his own and participate in campus activities and community service work. Hinds has also helped shape his plans for the future. After attending either Jackson State University or Tougaloo College, he plans on attending medical school to become a physician. While COVID-19 has forced a lot of changes in his academic life, it has not deterred him from his goals.

“There are people in healthcare or in science who are looking to find different breakthroughs to help these things and I want to be a part of that. When it comes to this virus it really just added upon my drive and purpose to become a healthcare professional,” he said.

Hughes has a message for anyone looking for a fresh start at Hinds Community College.

“I would say they are making their best decision when it comes to community college. Not only is Hinds affordable but it is also a great institution to further your education,” he said.

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