Three PRCC Students Selected as Semifinalists for Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship

All Locations – Three Pearl River Community College students were selected as semifinalists for the prestigious Jack Kent Cooke Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. 

Through this community college transfer scholarship, the Foundation supports high-achieving community college students as they transfer to some of the top four-year institutions in the country to complete their bachelor’s degrees.

This year’s semifinalists were chosen from a pool of nearly 1,500 applicants attending 369 schools in 45 states and the District of Columbia.

The three students chosen from PRCC are JD O’Brian, Lumberton; Willa Cailtin Sumrall, Poplarville; and Sarah-Ashlyn Barber, Hattiesburg. 

JD O’Brian

JD O’Brian, of Baxterville/Lumberton,  is a student on the Poplarville campus of PRCC and is currently majoring in Mechanical Engineering. He is the President of PRCC’s Phi Theta Kappa Iota Mu Chapter, a member of the Spirit of the River Marching Band, the flute section leader, 2nd chair flute in the wild ensemble, has worked 2 semesters as a work study/peer leader for the Office of Student Success, and is a member of both PRCC’s S.T.E.M. Club and Mu Alpha Theta Math Club. 

“I would say that my time at Pearl River Community College can be summed up with one word, family. From the start of my experience at PRCC, I was very skeptical of the motto ‘Wildcat Family’, but that is exactly what it is. The relationships and friendships that I have made from my time at the college have shaped me into the best version of myself. Being involved on campus has been a huge part of my success here, and the faculty and staff have left an unbelievable impression on my career path and never have hesitated to help me with anything and everything I needed,” Said O’Brian. “It is a huge honor to be selected as a semifinalist for the Jack Kent Cooke Scholarship. It feels like I am dreaming, and just knowing that this could give my family and I the peace of mind financially, to achieve my dreams, means the world to me.”

JD plans to transfer into the Mechanical Engineering program at Mississippi State University and then after the completion of his Bachelor’s degree obtain his Masters in Mechanical Engineering as well. Long term, he plans to move to California and pursue a career as the Senior Mechanical Engineer for Apple Incorporated. 

Willa Caitlin Sumrall

Willa Caitlin Sumrall, of Poplarville, is a student on the Poplarville campus of PRCC and is currently majoring in Hospitality and Tourism Management. She is the Vice President of Technology Services for Iota Mu Chapter of Phi Theta Kappa, President of PRCC’s DECA Chapter, President of the Dr. William Lewis Honors Institute on the Poplarville campus, member of the BSU leadership team, peer mentor/tutor for the Student Support Services, and a Summer ROAR Orientation Leader. 

When Caitlin thinks of Pearl River all the can think is “home.” 

“From the moment I stepped foot on campus, I knew that my life would never be the same,” Sumrall said. “Through my campus involvement, I have made professional connections and created lifelong friendships, all while growing as a person and learning about who I am. I am so thankful for the wonderful faculty who have helped me along the way and really shown me what it means to be a part of the Wildcat family. No matter where I go in life, the wildcat way will always hold a special place in my heart.” 

Caitlin commented that the reality that she is actually on of the semifinalists still hasn’t set in. 

“I am so honored and proud to have my name among so many other talented young scholars. I had a lot of help getting to this point and I am thankful for each person that is with me on this journey. I certainly couldn’t do it alone and the thought that I could possibly be joining the Cooke scholar community means everything. I just can’t stop smiling!”

Caitlin plans to transfer into the Hospitality and Tourism Management program at the University of Southern Mississippi. Upon completion of her Bachelor’s degree, she plans to pursue her Master’s in Business Administration. 

Sarah-Ashlyn Barber

Sarah-Ashlyn Barber, of Hattiesburg, is a student at the Forrest County Center and is currently majoring in Veterinary Medicine. Barber is President of the William A. Lewis Honors Institute at the Forrest County Center, Vice President of the Beta Tau Gamma Phi Theta Kappa chapter, a member of the Mu Alpha Theta Math Honor Society, a member of the Sigma Kappa Delta English Honor Society, and served as a freshman and sophomore Homecoming Maid 2017-2019. 

“I think what’s most important to me about my time at PRCC is the revelation I had as a student and a future leader,” said Barber. “With the help of insanely dedicated instructors who helped me see my potential, I realized anything was possible. PRCC taught me that opportunity is available every instant, but it is up to each of us to take advantage of it.”

Barber described being a semifinalist for this prestigious scholarship as overwhelming. 

“Being a Jack Kent Cooke semifinalist means more than words can describe. To know someone believes in me this much and is willing to provide tremendous financial support only makes me want to continue to give my all to my academics and my college. This is both the most exhilarating and humbling experience I have had in my entire life.”

Barber plans to transfer into the Veterinary Medicine College of Agriculture at Louisiana State University where she intends to specialize in exotic veterinary services. After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree plans to open a vet clinic centered on animal rescue and exotic animal care. 

The Pearl River Community College family congratulates these remarkable Wildcats and wishes them the best of luck as they finish their time at PRCC and work toward bright futures ahead. They should continue on knowing there will always be a home for them at The River. 

Photos by: Aleea Burge, PRCC Marketing Specialist/ Article by: Alexx Kennedy, PRCC Communications Specialist 

Pearl River Community College offers equal education and employment opportunities.  The College does not discriminate on the basis of race, religion, color, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, age, national origin, veteran status, or disability.  For inquiries regarding the non-discrimination policies or to request accommodations, special assistance, or alternate format publication please contact Tonia M. Seal, Director of Admissions and Records/ ADA/Civil Rights Coordinator at P.O. Box 5559, Poplarville, MS 39470 or 601-403-1060 or Maghan James, Assistant Vice President of Student Services/Title IX Coordinator at P.O. Box 5805, Poplarville, MS 39470 or 601-403-1132.

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