Interview: Alumna Returns for Annual MLK Day Parade

MOUNT VERNON— On Monday, January 20, students gathered around Brewton-Parker College’s flagpole to honor Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. through a 1.5 mile march to join the local MLK Day Parade. 

As students stood in the morning chill sipping on hot chocolate, one face in particular stood out from the crowd. While most in attendance that day were faculty, students, and members from the local community, this year marked the return of one alumnus who had witnessed the start of this tradition.

Paige Norton, class of 2017, stood beside her former professor, Dr. Billy Puckett, as he reminded everyone of the importance of honoring the life and legacy of Dr. King. Nearly 4 years prior, Klingaman had sat in Dr. Puckett’s Christian Ethics class, where she and her classmates planned the first of many marches. 

Q: How did you and your classmates come up with the idea for the MLK Day Parade?

A: During Dr. Puckett’s Christian Ethics course, we were discussing what we could do as a class that could connect the campus and the community through Christ. Our goal was not only to model the Christian morals we were learning about in class, but also to put them into action in a way that would involve the people we were surrounded by. 

When we were discussing what event we wanted to establish to achieve our goal, we thought about what national holidays were coming up – like Martin Luther King, Jr. Day. Our Montgomery community already had an event for that day where they marched to the City Hall and had a ceremony in honor of the late Reverend King. Upon hearing this, we all agreed that it was the perfect event for us to be a part of.

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was a theologian who took action, who practiced what he preached and what he believed. We decided that if we believed in the unity that the Bible talks about, and the unity that King fought for, as Christians, it was our responsibility to continue in his footsteps and walk with others to keep his dream alive.

Q: What was it like coming back this year to see the tradition still alive?

A: Coming back after graduating and participating in the March almost 4 years later filled my heart with pride. I was proud for many reasons: the tradition was alive and well, there were students still eager to understand what the day meant, and the community was just as welcoming as the first time we marched. Participating in this event so many years later proved to me just how essential BPC is to this community.

Seeing the March still alive also encourages me to take action, push for change, and continue to speak up. We were just an ethics class with an idea, and that idea has now become a tradition. How will you know how far your voice can travel, or what your actions can accomplish if you never take a leap of faith to begin? 

Q: Speaking of which, what does it mean to you as an alumna to see something you and your fellow classmates established continuing to affect the campus? 

A: As an alumna, I am honored to have contributed to something that has left a mark in the college’s history. BPC has impacted my life in thousands of ways, as its professors, staff members, students, courses, and spiritual aspects all contributed to my growth as an adult, and as a Christian. Being able to give something back, to help Brewton-Parker continue to be significant in this community, and to be allowed and encouraged by the college to do so, that is the true gift. There’s no greater privilege than being a part of something so small, yet so meaningful like joining hands for the betterment of humankind in Christ and doing that through the avenue which is BPC.

Q: What have you been up to since you graduated from BPC? 

A: I graduated from BPC in December of 2017, and walked in May of 2018 with a Bachelors of Art in Christian Studies. Upon graduating, I felt called to be a part of a church plant called The Well Church located in Pittsburgh, PA. I moved in March of 2018 and was there for almost two years. Some of my roles included helping start up the children’s ministry as well as serving with the worship team.

The Well executed a lot of homeless and low-income ministries that I believed to be important. As of today, The Well has merged and become Vintage Church Pittsburgh, which has expanded that ministry and constructed a Send Relief center for Pittsburgh.

Joanna Phillips-Mock

Student Enrichment Director

Joanna Phillips-Mock is a proud third generation Baron, both as a student and a staff member.

Beginning her teaching career in Middle Georgia in 1995, Mrs. Mock worked with a state funded program that served some of the most disadvantaged special needs students within the local school districts. She ultimately moved into leadership positions within the organization, serving and training others in multiple initiatives. She enjoys working with students of all ages to recognize and to achieve their greatest potential.

Mrs. Mock holds a Bachelor’s degree from Brewton-Parker College, a Master's degree in Education with a concentration in Behavior Disorders, and an Education Specialist degree in Educational Administration from Georgia College and State University. She resides in Ailey, Georgia, with her husband Don, their son Tye Lewis, her mother Carol Joyce, and multiple fur babies. She enjoys traveling, gardening, camping, and attending concerts.

Candace Lilford

Profeessional Tutor

Candace Lilford graduated with her bachelor’s degree in Theatre Generalism in 2021 from Anderson University and with her master’s degree in English Literature in 2023 from the University of Alabama. She presently serves as Professional Tutor for the Student Enrichment Center while also teaching sections of ENG 101 and 102. 

As part of her two-year master's program, Ms. Lilford taught sections of ENG 101 and 102, while also serving as teaching assistant for British Literature Survey courses and volunteering in the university’s Writing Center. Ms Lilford has also presented papers at the Hudson Strode Conference and the South Eastern Christian and Literature Conference as well as working on various theatrical productions.

Born in North Carolina of South African descent, Ms. Lilford has lived in Uganda, Botswana, South Africa, and Trinidad before settling in Mount Vernon with her family in 2016, where she attended Brewton-Parker College as a dual enrollment student. She presently resides in Mount Vernon with her family and spends her free time watching old TV shows.

Linda Armstrong

Academic Advising and Career Specialist

Linda Armstrong earned an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice Technology from Southeastern Technical College and a Bachelor of Science degree in Psychology from Walden University. Throughout her career, Linda has worked with diverse populations, including at-risk youth and families and youth in crisis because of mental health and other issues. Her empathetic nature has made her an effective advocate for those in need. In addition to her professional work, Linda is also is committed to volunteerism. She has dedicated countless hours as a youth mentor, and to teaching about her faith at various Christian organizations. She believes in the power of positivity and its ability to transform not only her life but also the lives of others.

"If you must look back, do so forgivingly. If you will look forward, do so prayerfully. But the wisest course would be to be present in the present gratefully." ~ Maya Angelou

Willie Ford

Academic Advising and Career Specialist

Greetings, Baron Nation!

It's truly a joy to be back in a place that has shaped me so profoundly. I'm Willie Ford, a proud 2022 graduate of historic Brewton-Parker College, holding a Bachelor of Arts degree in Psychology with a Minor in Education. Following my graduation, I embarked on a journey in education, teaching Special Education within the Vidalia City School District. In addition to my role as an educator, I had the privilege of serving as the Unit Director at the J.D. Rabun Boys and Girls Club. All the while, I was honored to pastor at the esteemed New Hope Baptist Church of Rhine, Georgia. With God's grace, I managed these responsibilities, and now, I'm thrilled and ready to contribute to the welfare of our students, aiming to inspire through service.

Dusty Arnold

Mental Health Counselor

Dusty Arnold  is a Licensed Professional Counselor and a Board Certified Behavior Analyst as well as a BPC alumnus. He has years of experience working with a variety of mental health issues including anxiety, grief, and challenges related to Autism. He specializes in behavior-related interventions that can help college students build on their strengths to set achievable goals while also learning how to deal with the thoughts and feelings that sometimes get in the way. He incorporates Biblical values and evidence-based treatments to meet students wherever they happen to be on their journey to spiritual and psychological health. 

Carl Anthony "Tony" Wardlaw

Assistant Student Enrichment Director & Student Success Coach

Carl Anthony “Tony” Wardlaw – For over 25 years, Dr. Wardlaw has worked in leadership, counseling, and pastoring. Beginning with working in middle management for a manufacturing company in Douglas, GA, Dr. Wardlaw has also worked in the academic, nonprofit, public, and private sectors. Additionally, he served over 7 years in the United States Military as a Military Intelligence Officer before resigning his commission as a Captain in the Army.

Currently serving as the Assistant Director of the Student Enrichment Center, Student Success Coach, and Adjunct Faculty at Brewton-Parker College in Mount Vernon, GA, he also serves as the Pastor of The Green Grove Missionary Baptist Church in Dublin, GA.

As a member of the renowned International Gospel Singing Group, The Wardlaw Brothers, Dr. Wardlaw has traveled all over the nation and abroad ministering and singing the Gospel of Christ Jesus. Dr. Wardlaw has served as a consultant for various agencies and has worked as a Fatherhood Coordinator and G.E.D. instructor within the Technical College System of Georgia and participates in local and national civic and philanthropic work.

Dr. Wardlaw holds a Bachelor of Business Administration degree in International Business from the University of Georgia, two master's degrees from Troy University (Master of Science in Clinical Counseling and Psychology and Master of Education in Counseling), and a Doctorate in Education from Argosy University in Organizational Leadership. Dr. Wardlaw is a Lifetime Silver Member of The NAACP and a member of The Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Inc. He is happily married to the former Mrs. Stephanie Scott. They have 3 Children; Chambria, Marc, and Carleigh.

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