Jennifer Kimmons (Student)
“It doesn’t matter how you start. It only matters how you finish.”
For senior political science major Jennifer Kimmons, these inspirational words ring true each and every day.
The Ashland native, at age 1, underwent surgery to remove a tumor from her brain. Due to her condition, she was placed in special education classes through the eighth grade. The experience was difficult to endure, she said.
“A lot of people would criticize me, saying that I couldn’t be in regular class with the other students,” Kimmons remembered. “I eventually stood up for myself because I felt like I could perform at the level of my peers.”
That same year, she worked her way onto the school’s honor roll, an accomplishment that inspired her to continue excelling in the classroom before ultimately graduating third in her class at Ashland High School. Despite her success, though, Kimmons faced more roadblocks after high school.
“When I applied to college, a lot of my family and teachers said I wouldn’t be able to perform at Mississippi State,” she said. “I didn’t listen to them at first, but when I went to class during my freshman year, I wouldn’t do well on tests.”
It was through her involvement with the business-oriented campus organization Intelligent Dignified Elegant Ambitious Leaders (I.D.E.A.L. Woman) that Kimmons found the support she needed to grow as a student and person.
“I met a lot of juniors and seniors, and they became mentors for me,” she said. “Even though they’ve graduated, to this day, they always check on me. It’s really helpful knowing that they are there for me.”
Kimmons said she’s also grateful for the help she has received from Ra’Sheda Forbes, associate director of the university’s Holmes Cultural Diversity Center and I.D.E.A.L. Woman faculty adviser. Forbes, a recent public policy and administration master’s graduate, encouraged Kimmons to apply for graduate school at MSU.
In May, Kimmons will become the first in her family to graduate from college. She is looking forward to serving this summer as a graduate assistant in the Office of the Graduate School prior to pursuing an MPPA degree beginning in the fall.
Appreciative of the individuals who have assisted her throughout her MSU experience, Kimmons is determined to pay that kindness forward by inspiring other young people to pursue their education.
“I feel like if you’re just successful and you don’t bring anyone along with you, you’re not going to be happy,” she said. “I really want to motivate and help other students and let them know that it takes a lot of hard work, networking and never giving up to be successful, but they can do it.”
It’s this taking-the-initiative mindset, Kimmons explained, that facilitated a recent—and perhaps her most cherished—campus memory.
“I remember telling my mother that before I graduate, one thing I want to do is sit down and meet with President Keenum,” she said. “I knew he had a lot of connections in D.C. and I wanted to get his perspective, so I contacted his office and his staff arranged a time for me to meet with him.”
The experience that resulted from meeting one-on-one with the university’s chief executive is something that Kimmons said she will remember forever.
“I’m big on stories, and I loved learning more about Dr. Keenum’s story and what motivated him when he was a student,” she said, adding with a smile, “I tell other students, ‘If you have the opportunity, go meet with him. He’s really cool.’”