FROM THE COLLEGES: Miss. College student-athletes baptized; Boyce volleyball; NGU honors athletic director; La. College student honored

Today's From the Colleges includes items from

Mississippi College

Boyce College

North Greenville University

Louisiana College


13 student-athletes baptized at Miss. College

CLINTON, Miss. -– Thirteen student-athletes were baptized at Mississippi College's softball field on Sunday, May 1.

Nikki Rhea was one of 13 student-athletes baptized in a Fellowship of Christian Athletes service on Mississippi College’s softball field May 1. Rhea, a former Lady Choctaws soccer player, is majoring in interior design.
Photo provided
Leaders of the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, Choctaws teammates and coaches clapped as students stepped into a metal water trough near a large wooden cross planted in the outfield.

"This night could not have been more ordained by God, and so special to me, being surrounded by my friends and the church family," said Nikki Rhea, a former Lady Choctaws soccer player who is majoring in interior design.

"God is so merciful and we are so unworthy, but He has chosen to free us from our sins," said Rhea, of LaPorte, Texas.

The baptisms reflected the dream of Bethany and Justin Pigott, former Mississippi State student-athletes who arrived as FCA leaders at the Jackson-area campus six years ago. The Pigotts hoped to see revival and unity grow as a spiritual force at the 5,100-student Baptist-affiliated university in Clinton, near Jackson.

With the baptisms, Bethany Pigott said the vision is unfolding. A few months ago, several FCA students gave their lives to the Lord. "It was incredible to see students desire God and want to walk in His ways," Pigott said.

Soon, conversations within the FCA's ranks led to plans for the baptisms near the Lady Choctaws softball scoreboard.

MC volleyball player Jamila Biglow said publicly proclaiming her love and faith in Christ is "a beautiful thing."

"Faith is something I have always gone back and forth in. But I realize now that Christ deserves my undoubted love, and I am ready to give that to Him -- to live, walk in love as Christ did," said Biglow, of Colorado Springs, Colo.

Brooke O'Hair, head coach for the Lady Choctaws softball team, rejoiced over the 13 baptisms, saying, "Tonight, I experienced the most amazing moment in my life as a coach." For the 13 MC student-athletes, O'Hair said, "the real victory has been won!"

In addition to Rhea and Biglow, others who were baptized were football players Jordan Jones and Alex Johnson; women's basketball players Khadijah Jones, Ashley Minor and Shuntavia Rodgers; women's basketball manager Megan Williams; softball players Ty Buckley and Hallie Rutledge; Trinity Lewis, track; Arielle Laurent, volleyball; and FCA participant Seth Surdame.

Boyce College forms women's volleyball team

LOUISVILLE, Ky. -- Boyce College, the undergraduate school of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, will add a women's volleyball team to its athletic program and begin competition this fall in the NCCAA Division II Mideast region.

Volleyball will be the third sport offered at Boyce and the first for women. Boyce launched its baskeball program in 2006 and men's soccer team last year.

Boyce athletic director Blake Rogers, who also coaches the men's basketball team, said the volleyball team has stirred "a ton of interest from the ladies on campus, and even the men who wanted us to have a more fully developed athletic program, and the next obvious step was to add a women's sport."

The volleyball team will be coached by Alexis Ammon, a native of Floyds Knobs, Ind., who was a four-year starter in volleyball at Samford University in Birmingham, Ala., where she graduated with a bachelor's degree in sport management.

After her playing career, Ammon served as a graduate assistant for the University of Louisville volleyball team while completing a master's degree in sport administration. Last year, Ammon was an assistant volleyball coach at the Christian Academy of Indiana, where she helped lead the team to a state championship.

Ammon said women's volleyball "is a great addition to the athletic department and will be a great benefit to student life. I look forward to meeting the girls and being part of this team. I really couldn't think of a better place to be at to have this platform of coaching and for the athlete to have this opportunity to compete."

Rogers and Ammon are currently developing a schedule for the team's inaugural season, which will begin in early September. Rogers said the team will face challenges because of limited practice time, but he nevertheless has high expectations for the first season.

"Obviously we are working against a tough timeframe, but if we can get a core group of girls from recruiting and current students to completely buy in, then we can have a good team," Rogers said. "Our top goals are always student-athlete development and discipleship. That is what is most important to nail down the first year, and then from that foundation we can improve in terms of competitiveness."

NGU softball field named for longtime AD Jan McDonald

TIGERVILLE, S.C. -- North Greenville University's new softball field was dedicated in a ceremony before a softball double-header on Saturday, April 23. The field, Jan McDonald Field, was named and dedicated in honor of longtime athletic director and former head softball coach Jan McDonald.

Large dugouts, new batting cages and bullpens have been added to the facility. University trustee and athletics benefactor Gary Glenn of Travelers Rest donated the all-artificial playing surface.

"The generous donation from the Glenn family has made it a uniquely exciting time for North Greenville softball," seventh-year softball head coach Sarah Hall said. "The addition to the school's athletic complex could arguably be considered one of the finest facilities in NCAA Division II softball."

More construction is planned for the facility, including a seating area with bucket seats for fans, a concession stand and a fieldhouse with offices and player locker rooms.

McDonald, in her 34 years at North Greenville, has seen the institution rise from an NAIA affiliate to an NCAA Division II member. She was the pioneer of NGU softball, starting the program in 1985, leading the team to two National Junior College Athletic Association Region X titles. In 2000, McDonald led the squad into its first season as a four-year institution, leading her team to a Mid-South Conference Championship.

"We are privileged to have this newest addition to our athletic complex and I am honored that the field bears my name," McDonald said. "I love North Greenville University and the opportunities it provides our student-athletes in a Christ-centered environment."

Louisiana College social work major's paper selected

PINEVILLE, La. -- Louisiana College senior social work major Caroline Weatherford was chosen by the Louisiana Council on Social Work Education to present a paper at a statewide National Association of Social Worker's Conference in Baton Rouge, La., on March 17.

Among all the papers submitted from Louisiana's higher education social work programs, Weatherford's committee-reviewed paper was top choice for presentation from the undergraduate level.

Originally written as part of Weatherford's social work coursework in communities and organizations, the paper reflects her semester-long community service learning project focused on reducing the stigma of mental illness in central Louisiana.

Weatherford said he was honored to present the paper, "but I am even more excited that I'll be able to share the work that my classmates and I did. Hopefully, this will raise the awareness of stigma even more."

Weatherford and her classmates completed two public awareness projects. The first was a "Chalk Out," where students wrote statistics about mental illness on public sidewalks.

"The purpose was for people to read these statistics and, if they have a mental illness, be encouraged to know that they are not alone in their struggle," Weatherford said.

The second project brought guest speakers into the classroom to "raise awareness about the stigma placed on mental illness in hopes that college students and community members would fight against that," she added.

The statewide conference provided Weatherford experience in speaking at a professional meeting, and "it will benefit her as she pursues graduate school and her professional career in social work," assistant professor of social work Bobbye Roberts said.

"This opportunity strongly validates Caroline's writing and research skills, as well as her project planning, assessment, implementation and evaluation -- all of which are strong indicators of substantial academic efforts," Roberts said.

Roberts added that the committee's choice of Weatherford's paper underscores "the preparedness of Louisiana College's social work students who plan to enter graduate programs of social work."

Weatherford, thanking both Roberts and assistant professor of social work Sheri Duffy, said all of her professors "have truly challenged me and pushed me beyond what I thought I could do. I have gained the knowledge and experience I need to further my education, and I have thoroughly enjoyed my time at LC in the social work department.

"Beyond education, I deeply appreciate how much my social work professors have invested in me personally," Weatherford said. "They care about each of their students and want to see them succeed not only academically, but spiritually as well. That's something you don't find at many colleges."

Asked about the source of her compassion, Weatherford said it "comes from my love for people and desire to help those who are hurting, which all flows from the grace that I have received in Christ. Because I have been shown such mercy and compassion, how can I not pour that out onto others?

"Multiple times in Scripture we see Jesus moved by compassion into action," Weatherford said. "As believers, we are all called to do that. For me, it happens to be on the career level."

Compiled by Baptist Press senior editor with reporting by Andy Kanengiser of Mississippi College, Robert Chapman of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, Robbie Gawrys of North Greenville University and Norm Miller of Louisiana College.
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