Career-tech student poised to finish long journey to college degree
PEARL – Zach Crandell was among the millions of working adults with a job, but not necessarily a career.
After a series of events both academic and spiritual, the 35-year-old Terry father of four is on his way to a credential and a career in Electrical Engineering Technology.
“I had to go to work early on to get by, since I didn’t have anywhere to go,” said Crandell, a Michigan native who didn’t attend high school after his father went to jail and his mother left town during his teen years.
“The past couple years, I began doing missionary work through my church, to Uganda, Africa. It was there that I heard clearly I need to go into electrical engineering. My grandfather was an industrial electrician, so I did have past knowledge of the work,” he said. “What excites me is what God does with our yesses. I said yes when God told me to go back to school.”
Crandell will be among more than 1,200 students who will be earning credentials during graduation ceremonies at Hinds Community College. Graduation begins at the Muse Center on the Rankin Campus at 2 p.m. May 15 with nursing and allied health programs. Academic and technical graduates receive credentials during three ceremonies May 16 at 9 a.m., noon and 3 p.m. Graduates at the Utica Campus will receive credentials at a ceremony at 9 a.m. May 18 at Boyd Gymnasium.
He earned his High School Equivalency at Hinds through the MIBEST program, which allows students without a high school diploma to earn one and train for a career at the same time. With the help of counselors at the Raymond and Rankin campuses, he conquered a fear of school and of asking for help. He’s ending this semester as a member of the Alpha Omicron Omega chapter of Phi Theta Kappa honor society.
“I fought with real bad anxiety on math tests,” he said. “I came to the realization that a test is just a test. Once I got the anxiety out of my head, I was getting A’s.”
He credits instructors and counselors at Hinds that he could talk to and, in his words, keep him accountable. Next up for him is Starkville, as he plans to complete a four-year degree at Mississippi State University.
“He knew the road wasn’t going to be easy, but was determined and driven to accomplish this goal,” said Donnie Lindsey, academic counselor at the Rankin Campus. “I’m so proud of his accomplishments and have no doubt that the sky is the limit for him.”
Dr. Libby Mahaffey, dean for Nursing and Allied Health programs, will speak to nursing and allied health graduates for the first ceremony, at 8 a.m. May 15. Dr. Theresa Hamilton, vice president for the Raymond Campus and the Jackson Campus-Nursing/Allied Health Center, will speak at the three ceremonies for academic and technical graduates. Former Mississippi congressman Mike Espy will speak to graduates at the Utica Campus at a ceremony May 18.
Mahaffey has worked at Hinds 37 years, teaching more than 22 years in the Associate Degree Nursing program. She has served as dean for all nursing and allied health programs since 2005. In the job, she is responsible for twelve nursing and allied health programs and the operation of the Nursing/Allied Health Center. She holds a master’s degree in psychiatric-mental health nursing with a cross-cultural emphasis and teaching focus and a doctorate in adult education, both from the University of Southern Mississippi. Her bachelor’s degree in nursing is from Mississippi College.
Hamilton has worked at Hinds 11 years in her current position. She is coordinator for academic transfer programs and learning resources throughout the Hinds district, daily manager for the Raymond and Nursing Allied Health Center and plans and executes faculty convocation.
Previously, she worked for Calhoun Community College in Alabama for 26 years, including as vice president for instruction and student services just prior to coming to Hinds.
She holds a doctorate in administration of education from the University of Alabama and a master’s degree in secondary education from the University of North Alabama. Her bachelor’s degree in secondary social sciences and adult education is from Auburn University.
Espy is a private sector attorney, counselor and agricultural adviser and has two law and consulting firms, Mike Espy PLLC and AE Agritrade Inc. He serves on the board of Cultivating New Frontiers in Agriculture, in Europe and North America, and is a member of the United States Agricultural Coalition for Cuba. He was also a candidate for the United States Senate in Mississippi in 2018.
He was elected in 1986 to represent the Mississippi’s Second Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives, the first African-American to serve the state in Congress since Reconstruction. In 1993, he was appointed Secretary of Agriculture.
He earned a bachelor’s degree from Howard University, Washington, D.C. in 1975, then received a law degree from the University of Santa Clara, in California, in 1978.