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‘Holidays Under the Stars’ brings joy to Blackburn students, community

Santa (Coach Derek Scott, associate athletic director for Internal Operations) and Mrs. Claus (Dr. Debra Mays-Jackson, vice president and chief of staff) bring excitement to a little boy with a big wish during JSU’s annual “Holidays Under the Stars.” (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

Santa (Coach Derek Scott, associate athletic director for Internal Operations) and Mrs. Claus (Dr. Debra Mays-Jackson, vice president and chief of staff) bring excitement to a little boy with a big wish during JSU’s annual “Holidays Under the Stars.” (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

JSU personnel presents gifts to scholar-students at Blackburn Laboratory Middle School. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

JSU personnel presents gifts to scholar-students at Blackburn Laboratory Middle School. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

L.A. BYLINE SM

Hundreds from Jackson State University and the community milled about on the Gibbs-Green Plaza on Thursday, Nov. 30, to indulge in the annual “Holidays Under the Stars.”

WJSU-FM’s Gina Carter-Simmers and Dwain Doty help move along the program smoothly. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

WJSU-FM’s Gina Carter-Simmers and Dwain Doty help the program move along smoothly. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

As in years’ past, JSU partnered with Blackburn Laboratory Middle School to provide gifts to students and brighten their Christmas.

WJSU-FM on-air personalities Gina Carter-Simmers, general manager, and Dwain Doty, news director, emceed the event.

CARTER-SIMMERS described the popular occasion as “a meaningful event in the lives of children who are academically awesome.”

The affair included an array of fascinating activities and treats: face painting; selfies; photos with Santa and Mrs. Claus; a miniature train ride; hot chocolate and cider; singing and dancing; and a jazzy performance by the Sonic Boom.

Carter-Simmers and Doty encourage the crowd to get in the groove. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

Carter-Simmers and Doty encourage the crowd to get into the groove. (Photo by Charles A. Smith/JSU)

Dr. Kimberly Hilliard, executive director for JSU’s Office of Community Engagement, said Holidays Under the Stars was created five years ago as a gift to the community. “We want people to know that we care about them. This is also a time for our students to enjoy this festive occasion before commencement and the holiday break.”

Heather Wilcox, neighborhood development assistant for the Center for University-Based Development, said JSU delights in partnering with Blackburn as part of the campus Angel Tree Project. She said counselors at the Jackson Public School helped identify deserving, high-performing students.

In addition, Wilcox said staff at the middle school provided a wish list that was distributed widely at JSU. Fifteen different departments adopted 16 Blackburn scholars. “We know that Jackson State is a community, and the community is Jackson State. We want to assist in any way we can. Blackburn is near and dear to our campus.”

( Aron Smith/University Communications)<br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br /><br />
Holiday Under the Stars 2017Participating campus units:

  • Academic Affairs
  • Public Safety
  • College of Science, Engineering and Technology
  • Office of the President
  • Division of Research and Federal Relations
  • Facilities and Construction Management
  • Staff Senate
  • Division of General Counsel and Division of Internal Audit
  • Student Athlete Advisory Committee
  • Hot chocolate is always a satisfying treat. (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

    Hot chocolate is always a satisfying treat. (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

    Auxiliary Enterprises

  • Undergraduate Admissions
  • Division of Institutional Advancement and External Affairs
  • College of Education and Human Development
  • College of Business
  • Purchasing and Travel Department

Tiffany Dockins, director of JSU’s legal operations in the Division of General Counsel, started the Angel Tree Project about eight years ago, urging Blackburn to join the university in helping underserved students and their families have a joyous Christmas.

DOCKINS said, “The project grew into something much bigger by recognizing honor students for all their achievements – three students from each grade. And, some families don’t have a lot to provide their children this time of year.”

MADDRAMA Performance Troupe wows the crowd. (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

MADDRAMA Performance Troupe wows the crowd. (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

Eventually, the Angel Tree Project combined forces with the Office of Community Engagement, which started Holidays Under the Stars.

“Seeing the smiles on kids’ faces and joy in parents’ hearts is a blessing. It’s also a blessing to have all departments come together with passion and a desire to give,” said Dockins, whose holiday wish is to “bring happiness to everyone I meet.” Furthermore, she said, “You must do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I try to be that beam of bright light and sunshine for all people that I meet.”

Holidays Under the Stars was a first-time experience for Veronica Cohen, vice president of JSU’s Institutional Advancement and External Affairs. She said the joy of the event was seeing families and children receiving their gifts as a result of the benevolence of Jackson State. “With the community and JSU coming together, you could see the children were excited. This is why this event is so important.”

Camera shy? Not these angels. (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

Camera shy? Not these angels. (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

Corine Harris, an alum and former employee of JSU, attended with her grandchildren and said she had a blast.

“This is a very beautiful and vey nice event. It’s good to give back to the community. I wish for everyone to have a very Merry Christmas and a peaceful holiday. It’s not just about gifts because another special reason for the season is that we get together and fellowship.”

Majoraenna Kelly, a 16-year-old Jim Hill High School student, echoed that sentiment. She attended the event with her brother who attends Blackburn.

“The holidays are about being with your family and having fun. I was excited to see my brother go onstage to receive his gifts. It’s a good thing for Jackson State and Blackburn to come together,” Majoraenna said.

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JSU cheerleaders rally the crowd to get excited about the holidays. (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

JSU cheerleaders rally the crowd to get excited about the holidays. (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

Mrs. Claus (Mays-Jackson) shares a holiday story with children. (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)

Mrs. Claus (Mays-Jackson) shares a holiday story with children. (Photo by Aron Smith/JSU)