EMCC graduate named 2022 Coca-Cola Academic Scholar


East Mississippi Commu­nity College graduate Kayla Nelson has been named a 2022 Coca-Cola Academic Team Bronze Scholar and will receive a $1,000 scholarship.

The Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation sponsors the Coca-Cola Academic Team program by recognizing 50 Gold, 50 Silver, and 50 Bronze Scholars nation­wide with nearly $200,000 in scholarships annually. Each scholar also receives a commemorative medal­lion.

Students who are mem­bers of Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, a partner in the annual scholarship pro­gram, are nominated for the academic team by their college administra­tors. Selection is based on academic achievement, leadership, and engage­ment in college and com­munity service.

“I can’t imagine anyone more deserving of the recognition than Kayla,” said EMCC Fine Arts/Hu­manities Division Chairper­son Janet Briggs, who is a Phi Theta Kappa advisor for the college’s Scooba campus. “She was a gifted student and a pleasure to teach.”

Nelson said she found out she had been selected for the honor via an email from the Coca-Cola Schol­ars Foundation.

“I was really surprised,” Nelson said. “Right after I received the email, Mrs. Briggs called and said, ‘Do you know how important this is? I am so proud of you.’ I did not realize it was a national award until she told me.”

Nelson is a Macon native who graduated high school from Pickens Acad­emy in Carrollton, Ala­bama. She attended school on EMCC’s Scooba campus where she resided in the Women’s Honors Hall and was a member of the Mighty Lion Band Color Guard. Last Decem­ber she graduated from EMCC, earning an associ­ate degree with a concen­tration in psychology.

“I loved my time at EMCC,” Nelson said. “The campus is small but every­one is close. The faculty know you by name and it feels like you are part of a family.”

Nelson plans to attend either the Mississippi Uni­versity for Women or Mis­sissippi State University – Meridian this fall to major in English. She credits EMCC Humanities instruc­tor Shannon Pendergrass with instilling in her a love of English.

“I enjoyed English so much I decided to change my major,” Nelson said. “I just didn’t have the same feelings about psychology as I did English.”

After earning a master’s degree in English, she plans to become an in­structor and would like to teach on EMCC’s Scooba campus. She already has a feel for the job. Nelson is a part-time English tutor in the Writing Center on the Scooba campus, helping students who need assis­tance with their Intermedi­ary Comp I and Comp II coursework.

She works at the Writing Center Mondays and Wednesdays and assists students after hours and on weekends through the Writing Center’s Microsoft Teams account. She has a second job as a pro shop attendant at Elm Lake Golf Course in Lowndes County.

“I feel like I have the best of both worlds,” she said. “I love the outdoors and I love teaching English.”

Nelson is the youngest of three children born to Henry and Carol Nelson, who reside in Macon. Kayla Nelson’s older sisters, Sarah (Nelson) Higgin­botham, and Lauren (Nel­son) Scott, also graduated from EMCC.

Coca-Cola Academic Team members will be rec­ognized internationally during Phi Theta Kappa’s annual convention, PTK Catalyst, to be held in Den­ver, Colorado, April 7-9.

“We thank the Coca-Cola Scholars Foundation for recognizing these student leaders and for investing in their futures,” said Dr. Lynn Tincher-Ladner, president and CEO of Phi Theta Kappa. “Scholarships like these are integral to the success of these students in reaching their educa­tional and career goals.”

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