TFA Graduate Fellows Program hosts Ballot & Brunch

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The Teach For America Graduate Fellows Program at Delta State University hosted “Ballot & Brunch” Nov. 11 at the Delta Meat Market in Cleveland.

Guests were invited to become active participants in re-imagining Mississippi with the TFA Graduate Fellows.

The program is a collaboration between Delta State and TFA. The fellowship’s role is to retain TFA alumni in Mississippi by offering the opportunity to continue their education in graduate school at DSU and to nurture their passion for enhancing the state.

The fellowship is a two-year program that currently has two cohorts for a total of 19 TFA alumni. Each fellow is pursuing their individualized social entrepreneurship project (SE) that addresses local issues.

“These folks are actively using their unique skills and passion, and applying it to the betterment of Mississippi through their social entrepreneurship projects,” said Harrison Wood, program coordinator for the fellowship.

Each fellow had the opportunity to invite individuals to the Ballot & Brunch who they consider to be mentors, collaborators or stakeholders in their SE project. TFA staff, DSU coordinators and potential future TFA fellows were also in attendance.

“It was a powerful event to experience,” Wood said. “Everyone in the space was invited because our fellowship believes that they are actively using their passions and work to better our wonderful Mississippi. In the room, we had people who were responsible for the creation of this opportunity. There were many folks representing TFA and DSU, and many were considered to be mentors and stakeholders to our TFA Fellows.”

The brunch was a brainstorming opportunity for attendees to propose ideas for advancing Mississippi followed by a pitch/networking competition among the fellows and their projects.

After brunch, each fellow presented a powerful one-minute pitch about their SE project. During the pitch, they addressed the Mississippi community that is being served, the need the project is meeting, and how they plan to execute their project. Participants then provided visuals of their projects set up in the space.

Once guests were able to network with the fellows, everyone had the opportunity to vote on the SE project they would support and like to see come to fruition.

The top-three presenters received a scholarship stipend to bring their projects to reality:

1st Place ($500)– Jeremiah Smith, Rosedale with Rosedale Freedom Project
2nd Place ($400) – Charlotte Arrowsmith, Greenwood with Open Minds
3rd Place ($300) – Lucas Rapisarda, Rosedale with Rosedale Freedom Project Outdoor Program

In addition to the Ballot & Brunch winners, the program able to award nine fellows with the Supply Stipend Award. The fellows were given the opportunity to apply for up to $3,000 of awards that will be dedicated to the advancement of their project.

“The TFA Graduate Fellows Program is thrilled to be able to support the TFA Fellows social entrepreneurship projects outside of providing university resources, formal mentorship, cohort collaboration, and community service opportunities,” said Wood. “Supporting them financially with the Supply Stipend Award is evidence that the fellowship actively supports the changemaking efforts they are working towards in a real tangible way.”

The project is funded through a grant from the Robert M. Hearin Foundation. The principal goal of the foundation is to contribute to the overall economic advancement of the state of Mississippi by making funds available to four-year colleges and universities and graduate professional schools located in the state.

For more information on the program, visit

Oakley crowned Miss DSU once again

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Miss Delta State University 2018 was crowned Nov. 9 in the Bologna Performing Arts Center on campus.

Gillian Oakley, a junior music education major from Southaven, Mississippi, will represent Delta State at the Miss Mississippi Pageant in 2018.

Her victory marks only the second time in the university’s history that a contestant has claimed the crown twice. She was previously crowned Miss DSU in 2016. Mary Ann Collins is the only other repeat winner when she won the crown in 1959 and 1961.

“I’m incredibly humbled to be Miss DSU once again,” said Oakley. “Now that I’m two years older, and I’ve seen all that goes into this competition, I think I have an even greater appreciation. I talked myself into thinking I didn’t have a chance because I had won once, so it was such a relief to hear my name called again.”

Oakley said she was unaware that only one other person was a repeat winner, and she would work hard throughout the year to honor the crown.

Oakley sang “My Way” by Frank Sinatra for the talent portion of the competition. Her platform is suicide awareness and prevention. In the upcoming months, she will be busy visiting different local and state schools promoting her platform.

Contestants at the pageant competed in five categories: private interview, evening gown, swimsuit, talent and on-stage question.

This year’s first alternate was Chesney Mardis, a health, physical education and recreation major from Mount Dora, Florida, and the second alternate was Antoinque McGee, a social work major from Pace, Mississippi.

The Miss Delta State University Pageant is produced by the University Pageant Board and sponsored by the Student Government Association.

Stratton named Cochran Congressional Fellow

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Delta State University student Paxton Stratton was recently selected as a 2018 Congressional Fellow for U.S. Sen. Thad Cochran of Mississippi.

Stratton, a junior HPER (health, physical education and recreation) major, with a minor in coaching and mathematics, will move to Washington D.C. in January and remain there through the spring semester. The program selects one Delta State student each year to serve on Cochran’s staff, with the goal of providing a better understanding of the legislative process.

“I’m absolutely elated to be accepted as a Cochran Fellow,” said Stratton, a native of Fort Worth, Texas. “It’s a big-time opportunity, and I think it will be a great learning experience for me.”

Stratton said he is excited to learn how the legislative process works, having never previously delved into politics.

“I’ve never really been into politics, but this will be a great way for me to learn the ins and outs of politics,” he said. “I think it will also help my get my foot in the door with people who are changemakers in our country.”

Stratton is driven to design prosthetics after graduating from Delta State, and he said understanding the political environment would be helpful for making prosthetics more affordable to people in the future.

Stratton is also a member of the Delta State men’s soccer team.

Delta State has a long-running tradition of sending fellows to Washington, and Delta State President William N. LaForge served as Cochran’s chief of staff during the 1980s.

“It is professionally and personally gratifying to me that we continue this wonderful relationship with the senator’s office in cooperation with Delta Council and Staplcotn because of the affiliation with Sen. Cochran going back to my days as his chief of staff,” said LaForge. “Paxton will have an excellent experience there, and their office will benefit from his outstanding background at Delta State.”

The fellowship program is funded through Delta State University, the Delta Council and Staplcotn. Additionally, Stratton will receive a stipend from Cochran’s office.

The Delta Council is an area economic development organization representing the 18 Delta and part-Delta counties of Northwest Mississippi. The organization pioneers efforts to solve common problems and promote the development of the local economy. Founded in 1921, Staplcotn (Staple Cotton Cooperative Association) is the oldest and one of the largest cotton marketing cooperatives in the United States.

Flight Team places second at Region IV Safecon Flight Team Competition

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Members of the Delta State University Precision Flight Team, from left to right: Matthew Hill, Brandon Baioni (team advisor), Ryan Hudson, Emma Jeffries (captain), Adam Holthouser (co-captain), Tristan Crockett and Parker Tomlinson.

The Delta State University Precision Flight Team recently took home second place honors at the Region IV Safecon Flight Team Competition in Waco, Texas, from Oct. 30-Nov. 3.

Delta State’s team was second in flying events and tied with Texas State Technical College for second in ground events. This resulted in the team receiving second overall and an invitation to the National Competition at Indiana State University in Terre Haute, Indiana, in May of 2018. The results are the best finish for the team in recent years.

Delta State also received the Red Baron Team Sportsmanship Award and the Competition Safety Award.

The competition focuses on quality, exact and accurate flying. Teams are graded on a number of skills, including a navigation event, short-field landing event, power off landing event, computer accuracy, pre-flight inspection event, and more.

“I am proud of this team because they faced many challenges over the past two years preparing for competition,” said Brandon Baioni, flight team advisor. “The team showed how a little extra effort pays off in the end. The aviation program offers many tools pilots need to be successful in their careers, but I believe that flight team puts these individuals above the others offering them even more tools.”

The current student roster includes Emma Jeffries, Adam Holthouser, Ryan Hudson, Melvin Tucker, Parker Tomlinson, Tristan Crockett, and Matthew Hill.

“It’s a great feeling to know our team was able to work hard, stay focused and were able to pull out second place,” said Jeffries, team captain.” The flight team offers me a chance to fly, work and socialize with my aviation peers. It’s also a great opportunity to make connections outside of DSU as well.”

Delta State has been competing at the Region IV Safecon Flight Team Competition since 1982.

“I think that through the hard work of preparing the team for competition and the team member’s hard work and efforts, the once quieted Delta State University Precision Flight Team has once again regained a voice,” added Baioni.

Learn more about opportunities through Delta State’s Department of Commercial Aviation at

Outstanding Alumnus of the Year – from poverty to abundance

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Growing up in Rosedale 19 miles from campus, Percy Malone just wanted to heed the encouragement his mother Selma had given him – go to Delta State.

He hitchhiked to Cleveland and enrolled and knew that pharmacy was a decent vocation after spending much of his youth working in area pharmacies as a soda jerk. He also knew from all of his odd jobs that he wasn’t afraid to fail, he just wanted a chance to succeed. Succeed he did as he took his education from both in and out of the classroom and applied himself in pharmacy school, in his business life as a pharmacist and pharmacy owner, and then as a representative and senator for Arkansas. His success has led to him being named Delta State’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year for 2017.

“I didn’t like being poor, so I took her advice,” the retired Arkansas state senator said. “People ask me about that, and I tell them I was tired of being poor. I’ve been rich, and I’ve been poor. And, I like being rich a lot better.”

With his father Willie working minimum wage jobs, the Malones lived in a two-room house with no running water, indoor plumbing or electricity until Percy was a junior in high school. When he headed for Delta State, he didn’t leave behind his upbringing but brought the lessons he learned to campus to help build a foundation for a strong future. His older sister Ruth went to work at Baxter Healthcare and gave her brother a credit card to buy gas once he headed to Oxford to pursue his pharmacy degree.

“She never married and has almost 200 hours at Delta State – a music major who became a teacher. She stayed with the family and took care of my sister with cerebral palsy and my mom,” Malone said. “Once my younger sister and my mom passed away, I moved my older sister to Arkansas to take care of her. I put her in a half a million dollar house with a full-time caregiver, and I still haven’t been able to pay her back for being able to use her credit card. A lot of people helped me along the way.”

Long before he sat in his senate and representative seats in the Arkansas legislature, long before he established a chain of pharmacies across Arkansas, long before he traveled to Oxford to learn his vocation, he sat in classes at Delta State soaking up the knowledge and wisdom of several teachers that would influence him the rest of his life.

“I had a professor in physics – Dr. Wiley – he took a special interest in his students,” Malone said. “It was an affordable school, and when I got out, I was prepared for pharmacy school at Ole Miss.”

After receiving his pharmacy degree in 1965, Malone began working with I.B. Fuller in Arkadelphia. Fuller became a mentor for Malone’s community involvement, which has ranged from serving on the Board of Directors of the Arkadelphia Chamber of Commerce to serving as a delegate to the Arkansas Constitutional Convention in 1980. He was also a member of the state Board of Pharmacy.

His political career began in 1995 when he was elected to represent District 36, which he did until 1999. In this capacity, he served as co-chairman of the joint budget committee and as a member of the insurance and commerce committee, the public health and welfare committee, and other important committees and subcommittees. Malone’s stint in the state senate began in 2001 and ran through 2012 when he retired.

While representing the state in his senate seat, Malone served on the labor committee, as chairman of the administrative rules and regulations committee and as chairman of the task force on abused and neglected children.

“This is a great honor from a school that helped me get out of poverty,” Malone said. “I have fond memories of being able to go to Delta State. It was a hand out and not a hand up.”

Malone completed 17 courses at Delta State that allowed him to enroll in pharmacy school. He had been working odd jobs since the age of six – working in pharmacies, delivering newspapers and much more. But he knows that he didn’t achieve his success all by himself.

“God’s been good to me, and the people of Arkansas have been good to me. I’ve had a lot of help. I tell people all the time I’m a lot like that turtle on a post. I didn’t get up there by myself,” Malone said. “I was very fortunate. I’ve grown up to be blessed to help other people.”

In his time in Arkansas, Malone saw promise in a young Bill Clinton as the state attorney general and began supporting him in his political future.

“We became good friends, and I saw how he tried to improve education in Arkansas and improve the economy and then get beat down and slapped down. Bill Clinton inspired me to get into politics, but I remember what an impact a fellow named Walter Sillers had. I used to deliver newspapers to him,” he said. “If there hadn’t been a Delta State, I don’t know where I would have ended up. They allowed me a good start to get to where I am today.”

These days, the retired senator is kept busy as president and owner of W.P. Malone, Inc., which includes a chain of AllCare Pharmacies across Arkansas, PWYW Managing, Inc., WPM Community Holdings, Inc., Exactmed, Inc., and Malone Supreme Angus Ranch, Inc. Malone and his wife Donna are members of Third Street Baptist Church in Arkadelphia. He has two daughters, Amy Malone Norcross and Emily Malone Ervin, and five grandchildren.

A 19-mile hitchhike from Rosedale to Cleveland to the classrooms of Delta State became the first few steps of a journey of a lifetime for Percy Malone – retired Arkansas senator and Delta State University’s Outstanding Alumnus of the Year for 2017.

The official hashtag for the 2017 Homecoming is #DSUHC17. For more information, contact the Alumni Association at 662-846-4660. To purchase tickets to the Alumni Awards Gala, contact the association at 662-846-4660 or

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