When the coronavirus reached Mississippi this spring, Kimberly Rush knew the pandemic would be tough for Kemper County families.
“We have so many students and parents in Kemper County that have a lack between their income and what their needs are, especially during COVID-19,” said Rush, an academic advisor at East Mississippi Community College.
Rush quickly went to work to fill those needs, overseeing a $5,000 grant from the Women’s Foundation of Mississippi to create a drive-through food pantry for Kemper County mothers. On their own time, Rush and fellow members of Zeta Phi Beta Sorority Inc. distributed supplies to families affected by the pandemic.
Rush plans to use half of the grant to help female students when they return to EMCC in the fall.
“I always had a desire to help people,” she said. “For a brief period, I wanted to be a teacher, but I also liked the flexibility of doing what you find most necessary.”
Rush said she was in middle school when she decided to spend her life helping others.
“I think eighth grade, or sixth grade – in one of my yearbooks, they asked questions like ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?” Rush recalled. “A child clinical psychologist – that’s what I wanted to be when I grew up.”
The native of Mobile, Alabama studied at the University of West Alabama, then earned a master’s degree in clinical psychology at Alabama A&M University.
After working at a drug and alcohol treatment center in Chattanooga, Rush came to EMCC, where her husband, who is from Kemper County, also works.
Her role as an academic advisor at the school entails a wide variety of duties.
“I help students determine their career path based on what their major is,” she said. “ My goal is to help them understand what classes are needed in their major, so when they transfer to a four-year university, they will have those classes.”
“I also do counseling with students who have mental health issues and may have difficulty transitioning,” she said.
Beyond her role as an advisor, Rush stays busy as a charter member of the Beta Alpha Alpha Zeta chapter of the Zeta Phi Beta Sorority, Inc.
Rush has also spent many of her off hours with the EMPOWR (Empowering Mentors to Promote Women’s Retention) program, which pairs freshmen at risk of dropping out with sophomores who serve as mentors.
Classes focus on financial literacy, healthy relationships and mental health, and the role of women as business and community leaders.
“If I see a need, and I’m able to help get that need met, then why not do it?,” Rush said of her efforts to help the community.
“This is what we should be doing,” she emphasized. “This is what God put us on Earth to do. If you have been helped – which I have – and you are at a point to help, then why not?”
“The little bit you do can make a huge impact.”