Life is like an interstate highway. There are rest stops along the way for you to pull into – to rest, fix a tire, whatever. But they are not the destination. You MUST get back on that highway and continue the journey.
Willie Crawford was born in Brookhaven, Mississippi, but was raised in Michigan. Visiting Mississippi as an adult, he fell in love and decided to make it his home.
“After retiring from the Navy in 2007, I knew that I wanted to be in Mississippi. Since then, I have worked at Ingalls and as a part-time postal carrier, and also owned a lawn service,” he said. “I loved all of those jobs, but never really landed on something I wanted to continue doing. In 2016, while grieving the loss of my sister, I saw a commercial for MGCCC and found out I had access to the Post-9/11 GI Bill. That got me motivated.”
He said that Lori Allemand, a counselor and VA certifying official at the Jefferson Davis Campus, helped him choose a major and got him on the path to his degree.
“Lori did so much to help me out,” he said. “She takes her job of helping veterans very seriously. She wants her students to graduate and go on to achieve whatever goals they have.”
Now, in 2020, he continues to take classes at the college despite having received his diploma in May 2019.
“When I finished my degree, I was able to breathe! Now I can take courses that interest me the most without a real end goal in mind. This year, I have taken Piano and Drawing I. I’m currently taking Drawing II, and before spring break, enjoyed seeing my artwork displayed around campus.”
At 70, he has no plans to return to the world of work, but he is enjoying staying active. His wife, Sheila, continues to work as a medical technician at Memorial Hospital. His daughter, Tahirah, is the executive assistant to the athletic director in Biloxi Public Schools. His son, Willie Jr., is out of the Navy and studying to be a chef in Austin, Texas.
“With my family being busy, I knew that I needed to do something to stay sharp and motivated,” he said. “Gulf Coast has proven to be a great place for me to do that. The instructors are what makes the college so great. I can feel their concern for students. They truly want you to succeed and will do whatever it takes to get you there.”