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WATAC 40 Under 40 Profiles

 

Photo Courtesy of WATAC/Tougaloo College

Terralon Cannon Knight, MD '98, Marshala Lee, MD '07, Colibri Jenkins, MD '01, Shirlethia Franklin, Esq. '04, John L. Baker III, Esq. '06, Hope Goins, Esq. '02, Dr. Zeita Merchant '98, Dr. Chazeman Jackson '01, Rukia Lumumba, Esq. '01, Waikinya Clanton '08, Not pictured: LeMia Jenkins '10, Amanda S. Mims '07, Ro'Chelle Williams '14

 

John L. Baker III, Esq. "Trey" '06 is from the finest and most interesting place in the State of Mississippi – also known as Grenada. Currently, he is Counsel for Congressman and fellow Tougalooan Bennie G. Thompson, who represents Trey's home district in Mississippi. Previously, he was a Career Consultant in the Office of Career

 

Development and Opportunities at the University of Denver, Sturm College of Law where he was a member of the Public Sector team specializing in career opportunities in federal and state government agencies, public interest organizations, and non-profit organizations. Trey’s legal practice background includes both private practice and public interest work. From 2009-2011, he worked at Pryor Johnson Carney Karr Nixon, P.C., as an Associate Attorney in the litigation group and specialized in medical malpractice defense. In the public sector, Trey has served as legal counsel to Denver non-profits and worked as a program coordinator for a Mississippi youth service organization.

 

While at Tougaloo College, Trey was a four-year member of the Student Government Association and was Mr. Tougaloo. One of his greatest accolades, however, was being the official “What’s Up Wednesday” DJ (under the stage name, DJ Big Smoove). Additionally, while on the yard, Trey made the best decision that any man could ever make and pledged Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc.

 

Trey considers himself a versatile renaissance man and, thus, has myriad interests outside of work including seeing as much live music as possible, traveling to as many interesting places as possible, and shopping for as many bowties as possible. And while personal accomplishments are cool and all, Trey most values the many meaningful personal relationships that he has built with his friends, family, colleagues, and fellow Tougaloo alums.

 

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Waikinya Clanton '08,  a Canton Mississippi native has risen to become one of the youngest women to watch. With nearly a decade of federal and state level legislative experience, Clanton currently serves as the National Executive Director of the National Organization of Black Elected Legislative Women (NOBEL Women) (www.nobel-women.org), a nonprofit, nonpartisan, membership based organization founded to increase and promote the presence of Black women in government, corporate and nonprofit leadership. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Sociology with an emphasis in Pre-Law from Tougaloo College where she graduated Cum Laude in 2008.

 

Most recently, Waikinya was honored with the Christine Ray Davis Trailblazer Award by the Congressional Black Associates, after having been honored as a 2015 emPOWER Player by emPOWER magazine and recognized by the same magazine as Rising Political Star just a year earlier.

 

Prior to joining the NOBEL Women organization, Clanton worked for the United States House of Representatives in the office of Rep. Bennie G. Thompson (MS-2). While on Capitol Hill, Clanton used her charming personality, winning smile and overall political savviness to rise to the ranks in one of Capitol Hill’s oldest staff led organizations, the Congressional Black Associates (CBA), having served on its Executive Board for three years and as its President for two consecutive terms. While there, Clanton also a member of the African American Women on the Hill Network (AAWHN), served as coordinator of the Deltas on the Hill (DOTH) network). She has also served on several nonprofit boards of directors including the Capital Cause, Inc. and the Tougaloo College National Alumni Association as Regional Representative.

This whipping young politico is not only a Capitol Hill veteran but is a rising voice in the conversation surrounding the elevation of women and girls in leadership.

 

As CBA President, she set an agenda that focused on the lack of diversity on Capitol Hill and the need for more professional development opportunities among Black staffers, specifically young black women. As Executive Director of NOBEL Women, Clanton is committed to ensuring that the organization continues its focus on increasing and promoting the presence of Black women in political, corporate or nonprofit leadership. She is a champion of protecting the public interest of women and families; and supporting policy initiatives that contribute to the enhancement and sustainability of the Black community. Her passion is most widely seen in the work she does to empower, both women and girls and their families.

 

If nothing else, Clanton is a creator. She is the founder of the Power of the PUMP network, a network of enterprising women seeking to be connected to human or fiscal capital as well as the founder and National Coordinator of the Heels for Hillary network, a consortium of Black women who support and are willing to leverage their personal and professional networks to ensure Hillary Clinton is elected President of the United States.

 

Clanton is also the architect of Girls, Gigabytes and Gadgets (3G), a STEAM initiative designed to encourage African American girls, between the ages of 8 and 18, to pursue careers within or throughout the science, technology, engineering, arts/agriculture and mathematics disciplines. To date, 3G has impacted nearly 1,000 young lives in its short two years of existence. Clanton is skilled in government relations, leadership training and development, coalition building, community relations and event coordination, management and execution.

 

 

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Shirlethia Franklin, Esq. '04 Shirlethia currently serves as Deputy Chief of Staff and Counselor to United States Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch. She previously served as White House Liaison and Counselor to Attorney General Eric H. Holder. Prior to these positions, Shirlethia was appointed by President Barack Obama’s Commission on White House Fellowships as a member of the 2013-2014 Class of White House Fellows. She spent her Fellowship year at the United States Department of Justice in the Office of the Deputy Attorney General.

 

Prior to joining the Obama Administration, Shirlethia served as a Senior Associate in the Products Liability litigation group in the Atlanta office of the law firm Alston & Bird LLP. While at Alston & Bird, Shirlethia served on several committees and was also selected as a 2012 Volunteer of the Year Honoree by the Truancy Intervention Project, in recognition of her commitment to pro bono legal services to, and mentorship of, at-risk youth. She is a member of both the State Bars of Georgia and Mississippi.

 

Shirlethia also served as a judicial law clerk to the Honorable Alexander Williams, Jr., federal judge in the United States District Court for the District of Maryland.

Shirlethia is a 2007 graduate from Howard University School of Law, where she served as Editor-in-Chief of the Howard Law Journal and president of her first-year class. She graduated in the top ten percent of her class and received various academic and public service awards, including the Olender Foundation’s Earl H. Davis Scholarship in recognition of her leadership and public service, and the “Student of the Year” and “Next Generation Leadership” awards.

She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in English, summa cum laude, from Tougaloo College in 2004, where she graduated valedictorian of her class. While at Tougaloo, Shirlethia served as Student Govern-ment Association President and Vice-President, Freshman Class President, and member of numerous academic societies and student organizations. She was also selected as an Andrew W. Mellon Fellow and was initiated into the Gamma Psi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc.

 

Shirlethia is a proud native of Shaw, MS—a “Small Town with a Big Welcome”—in the Mississippi Delta. As a committed public servant, Shirlethia fully embraces the motto: “The greatest use of life is to spend it for something that will outlast it.”

 

 

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Hope Goins, Esq. '02, is the Chief Counsel for Oversight to United States House of Representatives Committee on Homeland Security under the leadership of Ranking Member Bennie G. Thompson. She is Congressman Thompson’s top advisor on all matters related to oversight of the Department of Homeland Security and homeland security related matters throughout the federal government. During her tenure on the Committee, has been Congressman Thompson’s primary advisor on matters related to Counterterrorism and Countering Violent Extremism. Ms. Goins also has been Congressman Thompson’s senior advisor on matters related to Homeland Security and Civil Rights.

 

Ms. Goins has given her perspective on the balance between Constitutional matters and homeland security through guest lectures at Georgetown University School of Law, George Mason University Law School, George Washington School of Law, the University of the District of Columbia School of Law, and the University Of Memphis School Of Law.

 

She is an alumnus of the National Urban Fellows America’s Leaders of Change and was recognized as a member of the “2012 Top 40 under 40 on Capitol Hill” recipient from IMPACT and TheLoop21.com. She was named a rising star of the National Bar Association in 2014.

 

A summa cum laude graduate of Tougaloo College, Ms. Goins is an active member of the Washington Area Tougaloo Alumni Chapter (WATAC) where she serves on the Membership Committee. She is an annual sponsor of the Bennie G. Thompson and Jim Clyburn Mississippi on the Potomac Golf Tournament. She is also a lifetime member of the Tougaloo College National Alumni Association where she serves on the Board of Directors. In 2013, she was named Tougaloo College’s United Negro College Fund Young Alumnus of the Year. In 2016, she was the recipient of the United Negro College Fund Washington Inter Alumni Council Grace Philips Young Leadership Award.

 

 

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Dr. Chazeman S. Jackson '01, a native of Natchez, Mississippi, is a senior science policy analyst and the lead for the National Institutes of Health (NIH) portfolio within the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Planning and Evaluation at the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS). In this capacity, Dr. Jackson advises office leadership and other senior HHS decision makers in planning, coordinating, and evaluating a broad range of biomedical research, science

policy, budgetary, and legislative issues. Dr. Jackson joined the department in 2010 as an Emerging Leader fellow, being selected as one of thirty early-career professionals out of nearly 1000 applicants to join the HHS workforce. Dr. Jackson earned a Bachelor of Arts degree in humanities with an emphasis in philosophy from Tougaloo College, a Master of Arts degree in biology from American University, and a Doctor of Philosophy in microbiology from Howard University.

 

As a health science researcher, Dr. Jackson has focused on understanding the complexities of genetic variation within the context of health, medicine, and the environment. Beyond her laboratory work, she has served as a biologist in the Division of Molecular and Cellular Biosciences at the National Science Foundation and as a health scientist at the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities at the NIH. From 2012 - 2016, Dr. Jackson served a critical role, as health science advisor to the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Minority Health, in developing and implementing the HHS Office of Minority Health’s research and science policy agenda. In recognition of her achievements and commitment to science-based policies, Dr. Jackson was selected in 2009 as a Christine Mirzayan Science and Technology Policy Fellow with the Institute of Medicine’s Roundtable on the Promotion of Health Equity and the Elimination of Health Disparities.

 

Dr. Jackson’s career passion is to bridge her scientific acumen with the development and implementation of policies that advance the nation's health. Dr. Jackson enjoys traveling, photography, creative writing, and mentoring students from diverse and underserved backgrounds.

 

 

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Colibri Jenkins, MD ‘01, Dr. Jenkins earned a Bachelor's of Science Degree in Biology from Tougaloo College in 2002. Upon graduation she was accepted at Vanderbilt University to begin work on a Master's Degree but very soon thereafter transitioned to Howard University College of Medicine to pursue her Medical Degree. While at Howard University she became very active in advocating for policy change regarding women's productive rights in the District of Columbia. In 2005 she was the keynote speaker at the Black Women's Health Imperative conference and represented that organization as one of the speakers at the March for Women's Reproductive Rights held in Washington DC that year.

 

As medical school came to a close, Dr. Jenkins decided she’d be most impactful serving her community through the field of psychiatry. Dispelling the stigma and providing quality care for one of the most disadvantaged populations of our society was her goal. So she decided to move to New Orleans shortly after Hurricane Katrina to help provide much needed mental health care to a population of people desperately in need of additional services. Outside of performing her clinical duties, she's worked tirelessly with the Louisiana Medical Association to help curtail budget cuts to the state's Office of Mental Health and advocated for additional funds to provide more inpatient beds and community based services for those with mental health disorders. As a result of these efforts, she was given the very prestigious honor of being named the Jeanne Spurlock Congressional Fellow for 2009. As a fellow, Dr. Jenkins worked in the United States Senate in the Office of Senator Ron Wyden of Oregon. Through this office she sat on the Finance Committee (one of two committees in the senate responsible for crafting the healthcare reform bill before going to the senate floor for a vote) and the Special Committee on Aging. During this experience she had a direct hand in sculpting the very legislation that has resulted in providing millions of Americans with health care insurance.

 

Dr. Jenkins also has a passion for the youth in her community. Currently she serves as Assistant Director for the Adventist Youth Society which meets biweekly to provide educational activities as well as social outlets for community youth. Through this organization she has been able to help instill a sense of personal awareness and collective work and responsibility in a generation often viewed as self-absorbed and irresponsible.

 

In 2013, Dr. Jenkins completed a fellowship in Child and Adolescent Psychiatry at Tulane University School of Medicine. Today she provides treatment to those most in need in the Metro Jackson area and continues to care for those in the Louisiana area as well. She is currently the medical director for New Progressions of Mississippi, LLC, as well as Gwangi's Counseling Services and Pivotal Moments. Most notably, she recently opened her very own clinic, Jackson Child and Family Behavioral Health Solutions, which focuses not only on the child but on the family as a unit. She owes her success to her family and friends who have supported and encouraged her along the way. She is motivated to continue to peruse greatness by her son Miles, who provides perspective on days when things get rough. To whom much is given, much is required. Dr. Jenkins finds it a great joy to return her talents to a community that has afforded her so much.

 

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LeMia Jenkins '2010 has over eight years of public relations, political and strategic communication, government relations and corporate development experience. She is currently Nebraska State Communications Director for Hillary for America.

Most recently, Ms. Jenkins served as Director of Federal Relations for Jackson State University. In this role she developed, coordinated and implemented a comprehensive strategic plan for strengthening JSU’s identity and reputation in scientific and scholarly research and corporate development.

 As former Press Secretary and Legislative Assistant for Congressman Bennie G. Thompson. Ms. Jenkins assumed the role as formal spokesperson and media liaison for the Congressman with responsibility for the development and implementation of the overall media, communications and public relations strategies. During her tenure, she worked to significantly raise the Congressman’s national profile through the use of unique social media interaction, innovative talking points, floor statements, and timely op-eds and outreach. While serving as the Congressman’s Press Secretary, she also aided the Congressman as Legislative Assistant. In this capacity, Ms. Jenkins briefed and advised the Congressman on legislation related to healthcare, education, homeland security, social security, and taxes.

Prior to working for Congressman Thompson, Ms. Jenkins served as Deputy Communications Director for Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee and Press Secretary and Legislative Assistant to Congresswoman Marcia Fudge.

After completion of the Bachelor’s degree in Public Relations from Tougaloo, she earned a Master of Public health (Marketing and Health Communications) from the George Washington University. She is a doctoral student at the University of Mississippi with particular interests in higher education policy, government, and intelligence studies. She is an active advocate and policy specialist. She has a deep-rooted passion and commitment for higher education policy and ensuring civic engagement and positive change in the political process.

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Terralon Cannon Knight, MD ’98 is a Board Certified Family Physician who serves as the Chief Medical Officer of Greater Baden Medical Services, Inc., a multi-site Federally Qualified Health Center (FQHC) which spans six centers in three counties in Maryland. Concurrently, Terralon also serves as an Oversight Physician for Rediclinic, a subsidiary of RiteAid.

Prior to becoming CMO at GBMS, Terralon held positions as Regional Medical Director for United Healthcare and Medical Director for Inovalon, a Health Care Data Analytics Company. Her clinical experience began in underserved communities of Southeast Washington, DC and Prince George’s County, MD.

 

Terralon has been a Life Member of TCNAA since 2007 and was presented with the Soaring Eagle Award in Medicine by the Houston Chapter in 2007. She also was inducted into the Tougaloo College Hall of Fame in 2011.

 

A native of Macon, Mississippi, Terralon is a 1998 summa cum laude graduate of Tougaloo College, and earned her medical degree in 2002 from the Warren Alpert Medical School at Brown University. She also completed Family Medicine Residency in 2005 at the University of Texas-Houston.

 

Terralon currently resides in Upper Marlboro, MD with her husband Marshall and three children, Cannon (7), Allison (6), and Jackson (4).

 

 

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Marshala Lee, MD, MPH ‘07 MPH, who claims Jackson and Greenwood as her home towns, currently serves as a Supervisory Medical Officer and Branch Chief of Graduate Medical Education at the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) in Rockville, MD, at the hub of U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) operations. HRSA is the primary federal agency for improving access to healthcare by providing healthcare workers, providing health education to communities and working toward health equity, especially for people who are medically disadvantaged through geographic isolation, economics or medical vulnerability. Marshala directly oversees operations for the Children’s Hospital Graduate Medical Education (CHGME) and Teaching Health Centers Graduate Medical Education (THCGME) Programs which has a combined budget of approximately $350 million in FY 2016. These programs are responsible for supporting medical and dental training with the goal of decreasing health workforce shortages.

 

She was salutatorian at Greenwood High School, then summa cum laude for her Bachelor of Science degree in Chemistry at Tougaloo, having matriculated as a Presidential and Jackson Heart Study scholar. Having been early selected to attend Brown University’s Alpert Medical School in her sophomore year, Marshala endeavored toward continued academic excellence. Her residency in family medicine at the University of Maryland Medical Center in Baltimore was another step toward the primary medical care that her native Mississippi needs. After completing her residency in 2014, Dr. Lee moved to Boston to obtain a Master of Public Health in Healthcare Policy and Management from Harvard University School of Public Health. She is board certified by the American Board of Family Medicine and holds licensure to practice medicine by the state of Massachusetts.

 

Dr. Lee’s family has many ties with Tougaloo. She is the daughter of Marshall Lee ‘78 and Rylander Garrett Jones ‘80 and niece of Verlene Lee Pierre ‘79. A great uncle, Willie James Kelly, also attended in the early 70s. While at Tougaloo, she was involved with student government as Vice President of her freshman class and a member of her mother’s Gamma Psi Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Alpha Omega Honor Society. In medical school at Brown, she was Treasurer and President of the Student National Medical Association and in the Gold Humanism Honor Society. During her residency, Marshala made a “Doctors Back to School” presentation encouraging Greenwood High School students in her mother’s classes to consider careers in family medicine to help increase the number of minority physicians and eliminate racial and ethnic health disparities. (The University of Maryland Medical Center is piloting this program in local middle and high schools.) At Harvard, Marshala attended as a Mongon Commonwealth Fund Fellow in Minority Health Policy and was Vice President of the Black Student Health Organization. She has received numerous honors, including the Harvard School of Public health Presidential Scholar and The University of Maryland’s Family Medicine Award and the Family Medicine Community Outreach Award. In medical school she was the School’s Patient advocacy Winner and AAFP’s Minority Scholarship Program for Medical Students Winner and the NMA Family Medicine Minority Medical Student Initiative Winner and the Alton R. Higgins, MD, and Dorothy Higgins Scholarship winner.

 

Dr. Lee is the granddaughter of Monetta Hill, of Greenwood and Pearlene Lee, of Clinton. She is the sister of Ahmad Gooden Lee, Jackson and Clifford Lee. She is also the proud aunt of three nephews and one niece who live in Greenwood.

 

 

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Rukia Lumumba, Esq. '01 is a human rights activist, criminal justice strategist, thought leader, mother and daughter of the late Mayor Chokwe Lumumba and Nubia Lumumba. She serves as the director of the Youth Programs Department at CASES where she focuses on issues of criminal and juvenile justice transformation and human service development.

 

In a career spanning over eighteen years, Lumumba has a rich history of advancing issues and initiatives that elevate the legal, economical, health and educational rights of individuals, families and communities. She served as Director of Youth Services at the Center for Community Alternatives (CCA) where she oversaw the development and management of CCA’s youth services unit. She clerked for the Juvenile Service Program of the Washington, DC Public Defender Service where she represented youth detained in juvenile facilities on their claims against staff abuse and inhumane living conditions. She was program director of Parent Watch, Inc., a Washington, DC based non-profit agency that supported and assisted parents in advocating for the release of their detained children. She served on the board of directors of the National Conference of Black Lawyers, an association of lawyers, activists and legal workers who defend human rights and expose the over-incarceration of people of color. She served as National Coordinator of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, a membership-based organization dedicated to promoting human rights and self-determination. She co-founded Katrina on the Ground, an initiative that organized over 700 hundred young people to participate in post-Hurricane Katrina relief efforts in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama. She founded the Community Aid and Development Day Camp which served over 200 children ages 6-16 in Jackson, MS.

 

Currently, she serves on the board of directors of Voices Unbroken a non-profit agency that provides poetry and creative writing workshops to youth in prisons and foster-care group homes. She serves on the board of Black Belt Justice Center which is a national organization that provides services to address the structural barriers that hinder Black Farmers ability to achieve economic prosperity and holistic wellness. She also serves President of the Board of Directors for Cooperation Jackson, an organization dedicated to developing a network of cooperatives and worker-owned enterprises in Jackson, Mississippi that will expand economic opportunity, promote sustainability and build community. She is a native of Jackson, MS, and can be credited for leading the social media campaigns that helped to elect her father, attorney and human rights activist - Chokwe Lumumba, as Mayor of Jackson, Mississippi.

 

Essence Magazine deemed Lumumba a “New Activist”, the Congressional Black Caucus named her an “Emerging Leader”. She was selected as one of the brightest and most promising women of color by New York University’s Wagner School of Public Service; and she is a 2011 Youth for Justice Leadership Fellow for the National Juvenile Justice Network - a partner of the Coalition for Justice. One of her greatest accomplishments has been raising her son, Qadir.

 

Lumumba holds a BA in Political Science from Tougaloo College where she served as Miss Tougaloo College in 2000-2001. She holds, a Juris Doctorate from Howard University School of Law in Washington, DC, and has studied law and politics in South Africa at the University of Forte Hare and the University of the Western Cape.

 

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Dr. Zeita Merchant '98 Born in Chicago, Illinois and raised in Jackson, Mississippi, Zeita Merchant is a Commander in the United States Coast Guard and a 1998 graduate of Tougaloo College, where she earned a B.S. in Biology. Enjoying over 19 years of active duty service, Commander Merchant is a Type-I Incident Commander and a recognized authority in the complex and rapidly changing Marine Safety and Environmental Management field.

 

Commander Merchant assumed duties as the Commanding Officer, Marine Safety Unit Chicago on July 8, 2016, becoming the first African American woman Commanding Officer to lead a Marine Safety Unit in the U.S. Coast Guard, as well as the first woman to lead Chicago's Marine Safety Unit.

 

Previous to this position, she served as the Special Assistant to the Vice Commandant of the Coast Guard. In this position, she served as a principal advisor and direct representative on all matters pertaining to the daily and long-term administration of the Vice Commandant’s schedule and enterprise management of the Coast Guard.

 

From 2012-2014, Commander Merchant served as the Executive Officer of Marine Safety Unit Texas City. Her responsibilities there included carrying out the Coast Guard’s Maritime Safety and Security and Marine Environmental Protection and Response missions throughout the deep water ports of Galveston, Freeport and Texas City, Texas. Of particular note during this tour, Commander Merchant served as the Deputy Federal On-Scene Coordinator during the Texas City “Y” Spill response operation, a 168,000-gallon heavy marine fuel oil spill that crippled four major shipping channels in the Nation’s largest petro-chemical port complex.

 

Commander Merchant also served as a Congressional Fellow on two committees in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C., from 2010 to 2012. During the 111th Congress, she employed her multifaceted expertise in guiding legislation that governed the Coast Guard and maritime transportation activities on the Committee on Transportation and Infrastructure. At the start of the 112th Congress, she was selected to serve as a Fellow on the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform where she supported the committee's oversight work on fraud, waste and abuse in the federal government.

 

Commander Merchant also served as Supervisor, Port of Miami Field Office and Chief of Port Operations at U. S. Coast Guard Sector Miami. During this tour of duty, she led Sector Miami operations at three of the largest ports along the Eastern Seaboard. Prior to this tour, she served as an Executive Planner to the Coast Guard Flag and Senior Executive Service members at Coast Guard Headquarters, Washington, D.C., and as a Marine Inspector and Port Operations Officer at Marine Safety Office New Orleans, Louisiana.

 

Commander Merchant was conferred a Master of Quality Systems Management from the National Graduate School in 2003. She also earned a Master of Public Administration in Environmental and Emergency Management from George Washington University in Washington D. C. in June of 2010 and a Doctorate in Business Administration in 2011. In addition, she is a graduate of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government’s Executive Education Leadership in Homeland Security Course and a 2015-2016 Massachusetts Institute of Technology Seminar XXI National Security and Foreign Affairs Fellow.

 

CDR Merchant has been honored with numerous professional, academic, and community service awards, including the 2013 Black Engineer of the Year (BEYA) Professional Achievement in Government Award, 2011 BEYA STEM K-12 Promotion of Education Award, the 2010 Annual MEAC/SWAC Challenge Legends HBCU Trailblazer Award, and the 2010 Coast Guard Award for Excellence in Diversity. Commander Merchant’s personal military awards include two Meritorious Service Medals, four Coast Guard Commendation Medals, three Coast Guard Achievement Medals, two Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medals, and four Commandant's Letters of Commendation, Marine Safety Insignia and Commandant’s Staff Identification Badge.

 

 

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  Amanda S. Mims, MPH Biography.  Amanda was raised on the Mississippi Gulf Coast. She is a 2003 honor graduate of Pascagoula High School and 2003 Gates Millennium Scholar. This particular scholarship program, being one of the largest in the world, covered all students’ expenses including tuition, fees, books, room and board. It fully funded Bachelors, Masters, and Doctoral degrees. She obtained her Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Tougaloo College in 2007 and her Master of Public Health in 2009 from the University of Southern Mississippi.

 

While at Tougaloo, she was very active on campus. Some of her activities and affiliations, included: being selected Zeta Phi Beta’s Miss Royal Elite in her freshman year, competing on Tougaloo’s Honda Campus All-Star Challenge Team for four years, presenting at various research conferences, and becoming a member of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc., Nu Beta Chapter, as a sophomore in the Fall of 2004.

 

She is currently an Insurance Verification Specialist for Contemporary Family Services, Inc., an outpatient mental health agency, in Washington, DC. In this position, she assists consumers who are experiencing insurance and resource challenges. Before her current position, she worked for the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) as the Convention Registration Manager. In that position she was able to coordinate a national convention for a major mental health nonprofit. Amanda has found an insurmountable joy in breaking down the stigmas associated with mental illness.

 

Aside from mental health, Amanda also has a background in education. She taught social studies at the middle and high school levels for three and a half years. Her classroom was not only fostered toward the basics of social studies, but was also an environment where each student pondered their futures. She provided life skills through goal setting, college preparatory activities, and self-empowering dialogue.

 

She is very active in her community and church. Aside from teaching Youth Mental Health First Aid classes, Amanda also provides free college and scholarship workshops. As a Gates Millennium Scholars alumna and ambassador, she has offered insight and advice on the postsecondary world. She has traveled across Mississippi, the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia in hopes of spreading the word about the Gates Scholarship and inspiring students and their families with her story.

 

Serving others is what Amanda truly loves to do. She has volunteered with the Thurgood Marshall Academy for their annual MLK Scholarship Day. She has volunteered with the Capital Area Food Bank and Foods and Friends, Inc. Both organizations help to alleviate the hunger crisis in the greater Washington, DC area. She has taught life skills classes at Calvary Women’s Services, an organization that provides housing, health, education, and employment programs for homeless women in Washington, DC. Aside from her civic engagement, Amanda currently holds leadership positions. She is the Social Activities Committee chair for the DC Metro Gates Millennium Scholars Alumni Association and the chair for the Recruitment and College Fairs Committee with the Washington Area Tougaloo Alumni Chapter (WATAC). Although she serves in various outside capacities, she always makes time to worship and serve God with her Georgia Avenue Church of Christ family.

 

Amanda Mims has a great passion and an overwhelming amount of compassion for people. Amanda gives back because she knows what it is like to grow up in poverty, sleep in shelters, and eat in soup kitchens growing up in the Deep South. Having to go to bed hungry and wake with a renewed sense of hopelessness had a deep impact on her and it fuels her today.

 


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Ro'Chelle Williams '14.  Young political and educational activist, Ro'Chelle was born in Natchez, Mississippi, and is a 2010 graduate of Natchez High School.


While at Tougaloo, he became immersed in collegiate politics as well as, local, state, and federal politics. In addition to his political background, Mr. Williams was extremely active throughout his matriculation at Tougaloo College. He served in many capacities of leadership: Sophomore Class Vice-President; Tougaloo College Concert Choir President; Yearbook Editor-in-Chief; Special Assistant to the President, Vice-President and Student Advisor to the Pre-Alumni Council; Tougaloo Ambassadors of Meritorious Scholars President and President Emeritus for (TAMS) and lastly, Senior Class President for the Class of 2014. In 2014, he was awarded the Chase L. Gayden Leadership Award by the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) for his outstanding contributions to Tougaloo College, United Negro College Fund and National Pre-Alumni Association.

During his freshman year, he interned with the National Transportation Center of Excellence and from there, he worked his way up through various internship. In the summer of 2013,During his freshman year, he interned with the National Transportation Center of Excellence and from there, he worked his way up through various internship. In the summer of 2013, Ro'Chelle took his political enthusiasm to the halls of the United States Congress, where he interned in the Office of Congressman Bennie G. Thompson. He was a dependable intern and since his work was so effective, the Congressman requests his assistance and engagement though the mentorship of incoming interns to ensure they are working to the best of their ability. In 2014, he was selected, along with 39 other young political leaders to become a Hope Fellow for the Democratic National Committee (DNC), where he worked with leaders from across the country on campaign finances, political leadership and management.

Since leaving Tougaloo College, Ro'Chelle has worked for the Democratic National Committee in the Office Community Engagement, the Climate Action Campaign as Operations Director, the Pivot Group as Senior Account Associate, and is currently the Associate Director for Brazile and Associates, LLC., a consulting firm created by Donna Brazile, the interim chair of Democratic National Committee. He currently serves on the Board of Director for the Cassius L. Rudolph Scholarship Fund, the Recruiting and College Fairs Committee for the Washington Area Tougaloo Alumni Chapter, and other boards through the Washington-Metropolitan Area.

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