MERIDIAN — Special to The Star
“It was a good day.”
That’s how Meridian Community College Physical Therapist Assistant Program Coordinator Kimberly Ennis described the 27th Annual HEADWAE program.=
HEADWAE, Higher Education Appreciation Day Working for Academic Excellence, spotlights outstanding students and faculty members from 34 Mississippi public and private universities and colleges.
Ennis, along with Auburn Berry, the MCC HEADWAE student representative, received special recognition from the Mississippi Legislature during this annual event. HEADWAE was established by legislative resolution to honor individual academic achievement and the overall contribution of the state’s public and private institutions of higher learning.
“That’s what I enjoy most about my job is teaching and it’s nice to be honored,” Ennis said.
Teaching though wasn’t always on Ennis’ career agenda. Earning a bachelor’s degree in physical therapy from the University of Mississippi, and later a master’s degree in health science from Mississippi College, Ennis worked at the University of Mississippi Medical Center and was as a clinical coordinator at St. Dominic’s.
“I thought I’d never teach,” Ennis said. Encouragement from others directed her to passion.
After coming to Meridian, Ennis was hired to start the newly formed Physical Therapist Assistant Program with Dr. Larry Tuminello serving as the coordinator. Unexpectedly, Tuminello died just days before the first class started and Ennis was placed in charge. “I’ve been here since the first class,” she said. That initial session met in August 1996.
Teaching offers both challenges and rewards for both the student and instructor. For Ennis, the rewards come in a myriad of ways – one especially close to home. One of her former students is working with Ennis’ parent who lives in Clinton.
The HEADWAE honor isn’t the only accolade Ennis has garnered. She has received the MCCer of the Month and the Clarence Roberts Teacher of the Year awards. She has served the College as MCC Faculty Staff Association president, serves on numerous committees and has served as health education chair for the Mississippi Physical Therapy Association.
She and her husband, Kevin, have a 21-year-old son, Turner.
As a part of the day, Ennis and Berry along with the other honorees visited and toured the Capitol. They were also treated to an awards luncheon.
For Quitman resident Auburn Berry, the decision to study nursing was divinely inspired.
She said it was watching her grandfather battle cancer that originally sparked her interest in nursing. “And when he passed in August 2011, it became evident that was the path I should take.
“I fully believe the Lord used him to lead me here, and I’m so glad He did,” she said. “Not only that, but the human body is absolutely fascinating to me. I thoroughly enjoy getting to study how it works,” Berry said.
A sophomore studying in the Associate Degree Nursing Program, Berry has a grade point average of 3.8 on a 4.0 scale; in addition, she is a member of Phi Theta Kappa, the academic honor society for community and junior colleges, and received the Reuben S. Johnson Scholarship that is funded by Anderson Regional Medical Center through the MCC Foundation.
“I chose to come to MCC because I wanted to be close to home. I also liked the small student to teacher ratio,” Berry said.
She plans to pursue her doctor of nursing practice and work either as an acute care nurse practitioner or a family nurse practitioner in Meridian.
Berry said, “I was both surprised and honored to learn I was the HEADWAE representative for MCC; even more so after attending the Appreciation Day in Jackson and seeing the other students I was among.”
Berry, 21, is the daughter of Clea Berry and Mechelle Ansley.