Simpson family working toward college degrees with help from employee benefit.
Sonia Thompson (seated) and her daughter Jennifer, both of Grenada, are enrolled in college courses together this fall at the University of Mississippi- Grenada campus. The Thompson's are taking advantage of scholarships available to full-time employees and children of full-time employees at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Grenada hospital.
GRENADA, Miss. – Sonia Simpson never imagined that she would one day be sitting in a college classroom with her daughter, but this fall semester she is doing just that as she works to complete her junior year of courses at the University of Mississippi's Grenada campus.
"This has been a personal goal of mine for a long time," Simpson said. "And now I have the help I need to meet that goal."
Simpson works as a clinical supervisor over ambulatory care at the University of Mississippi Medical Center's Grenada hospital. Previously, she worked for 20 years with Grenada Family Medicine before she joined those three providers who transferred to the hospital staff.
"My director encouraged me to take advantage of the employee scholarship that is available to hospital employees," Simpson said. "I just go across the street after work and take my classes. It couldn't be any more convenient."
As a full-time employee of the Grenada hospital, Simpson soon learned that not only could she take advantage of scholarship benefits for herself, but she could also apply for a half-tuition scholarship for daughter Jennifer as well.
"The university strongly supports professional and personal development," said Pam Johnson, UM assistant director of benefits and compensation. "As an institution of higher learning, we encourage continuing education to help create a stronger employee base."
Simpson is a 1987 graduate of Grenada High School and received her associate's degree in accountancy from the Holmes Community College Grenada campus. Her daughter graduated from Grenada High School in 2011 and also went on to take her freshman- and sophomore-level courses at Holmes-Grenada.
Sonia and Jennifer both received the UM employee benefit scholarships and are enrolled this fall at the regional campus.
Full-time Grenada hospital employees who have worked for the institution for at least a year are eligible to apply for scholarship benefits for their single, dependent children under the age of 25 who are interested in completing their first bachelor's degree with Ole Miss.
This scholarship covers 50 percent of tuition costs each semester.
"It's great to be share this journey with my daughter," Simpson said. "We are both taking the transfer student experience class this semester. It has really helped me get back into the expectations of college classes. It is really exciting to be learning together."
Jessica Hughes, associate director of the Grenada campus and instructor of the transfer student experience course, said she enjoys having the Simpsons in her class, and that there is even a bit of friendly competition between mother and daughter.
"It's funny how they get a little competitive when grades come out after a test," Hughes said. "They are happy for each other, but they both want to get the top grade. They are engaged in class and encourage one another. It's a great dynamic for the classroom."
Sonia is taking upper-level courses to complete her bachelor's degree in business. Jennifer is working on minors in education, history and psychology to earn her bachelor's degree in general studies.
"I already see where my classes are helping me," Simpson said. "Of course, my business courses are giving me new insight into the fundamentals of a successful business, but they are also helping me learn more about working with people and improving my writing skills."
The Grenada campus offers most live classes in the afternoons and evenings as well as a selection of online course offerings.
Earning a degree at the campus is a family affair for the Simpsons. Sonia's husband, Herman, who retired as Grenada's fire chief in 2013, completed a degree there in 2015.
Upon retirement, he decided to enroll in classes and went on to complete his bachelor's degree. He now works for the Social Security Administration office in Grenada.
Sonia said she isn't sure whether she would be able to continue pursuing her education if not for the scholarships available to UMMC employees.
"It will be such an accomplishment for me to complete my bachelor's degree," Thompson said. "I'm excited to put this on my resume. I'm very happy to have this opportunity and have it work out so well for my family."
For more information on the UM-Grenada campus and tuition scholarships available to full-time employees of UMMC's Grenada hospital and their dependent children, contact Jessica Hughes at 662-227-2348 or visit http://www.olemiss.edu/grenada
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Thursday, April 27 at 6 p.m. in the Corey Forum at Holmes-Grenada