In May 2014, Bre’Ann Higgins became the very first Rusk High School graduate to accept the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise Scholarship.
On Friday, she became one of the program’s first graduates from Tyler Junior College, walking across the stage to graduate magna cum laude with Associate of Arts degrees in both theater arts and speech communication.
Higgins is now mulling scholarship opportunities to continue her theater education at Texas Tech or Stephen F. Austin State University.
“I can’t say enough about my experience here,” she said. “It was more than I ever could’ve hoped for. I sincerely thank the Perkins family and TJC for coming together and creating this opportunity.”
The James I. Perkins Family Foundation – along with Citizens 1st Bank, Rusk ISD, TJC and the TJC Foundation – established the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise in February 2014. The first program of its kind in Texas, the Rusk Promise covers up to two years at TJC for Rusk students who graduate in the top half of their class with a minimum 2.5 GPA. Qualifying students must also reside in Rusk ISD and must have attended Rusk High School for grades 11 and 12.
In a special ceremony last week, Perkins family and TJC honored the inaugural class of Rusk Promise scholars for their hard work over the past two years.
The Rusk Promise scholars honored at the event were:
Samuel Beavers, pursuing an Associate of Science in Computer Science
Brittany Christopher, graduating with an Associate of Arts in General Studies with plans to pursue a career as a paralegal
Kyleigh Christopher, pursuing an Associate of Arts in General Studies with plans to apply to the TJC Physical Therapy Assistant Program
Brittaney Dunlop, pursuing an Associate of Arts in English
Bre’Ann Higgins, graduating magna cum laude with an Associate of Arts in Theater and Speech Communication
Christian Holman, graduating with an Associate of Arts in General Studies and awaiting acceptance to nursing school
Kadeja Jefferson, graduating with an Associate of Science in Science
Lauren Lankford, pursuing an Associate of Arts in General Studies
Alexis Long, pursuing an Associate of Arts in Journalism/Mass Communication
Destinee Morris, pursuing an Associate of Arts in General Studies with plans to pursue a career in education
Jessica Reynolds, pursuing an Associate of Arts I Psychology
Ariana Rossa, pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in Sign Language Interpreter Training
Dylan Thompson, pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in Heating, AC/Refrigeration
Tierra Turner, who graduated TJC in December 2015 with an Associate of Arts in General Studies completing prerequisites for nursing school
Tristian Williams, pursuing an Associate of Applied Science in Engineering
Since Higgins and many of her 2014 RHS classmates accepted the Rusk Promise and entered TJC together, she said they’re even closer now than ever before.
“It’s helpful having friends you’ve known since kindergarten going through college with you,” she said. “We came here together and, over the last two years, we formed our own little extended family at TJC.”
She also credits TJC recruitment and retention coordinator Megan Cumbee, who shepherds Rusk Promise program.
“Miss Megan has been the best,” Higgins said. “She did everything to help us and was always the first one to dive right in when we needed something.”
Higgins is also proud to be part of the college-going culture that has developed in her hometown since the program began two years ago.
“A few weeks ago, some of us went to read to the Rusk elementary students,” she said, “and one kid came up to me and said, ‘I want to be just like you and go to college, too.’
“That stopped me in my tracks, because it made me realize how truly lucky I am to be part of this program. It’s just been amazing.”
For more on the Rusk TJC Citizens Promise, go to www.tjc.edu/RuskPromise.