MERIDIAN, Miss.— Lauren Hamrick Stokes was home from college for Christmas break in 2014 when her mother died unexpectedly. Just two semesters shy of earning her undergraduate degree in educational psychology from Mississippi State, she returned to Starkville with a heavy heart, determined to push through this family tragedy.
Four years later, the Hickory resident is being recognized by MSU-Meridian’s Division of Education as its Outstanding Graduate Student during the university’s spring commencement May 3.
“That was such a horrific time for me, but I knew my mom would want me to finish my degree, so I felt I had to return to school,” said Stokes. “But I’m here to tell you I’m a living testament to the lengths that Mississippi State will go for its students. When I returned that January, not a day went by that someone with the university didn’t call and check on me, asking me if I wanted to move somewhere else, or if I needed a job so I could stay busy and keep my mind off my grief. They were truly amazing.”
After graduating in December 2015 with a bachelor’s degree, she moved back home to tend to the family cattle operation and prepare for graduate school.
“It was always my plan to go on and earn my master’s in counseling,” she said. “I’m just thankful I lived close enough to commute to MSU-Meridian so I could attend class and oversee our family business alongside my husband, Wes, whom I married this past September, while my dad and brother have worked out of state.”
Last fall she began an internship at Enterprise High School, working with her former high school counselor, Kathy Dedwylder. For Stokes, who graduated from the school in 2011, it was like coming home.
“It was really a wonderful experience getting to work alongside her, I learned so much,” she said. “Since many seniors really didn’t have any idea what they wanted to do after high school, I had them do career interest inventories. Then I worked with them to figure out what their natural tendencies are, the majors that fit along with those interests, and what colleges offer those majors. Several students also needed help filling out the FAFSA and researching scholarship opportunities, as well as signing up for classes.”
Although career planning and college preparation are part of a high school counselor’s job, Stokes noted helping students “navigate life” is the main focus.
“I felt drawn to this age group. Maybe it’s because I feel like I can relate more to them – since I’m not much older than they are,” she said. “I can assure them when they say ‘you don’t understand what I’m going through’ that I do know because it wasn’t so long ago I was in their shoes.”
Stokes believes she’s always had a natural tendency to help take care of other people’s problems, and her faith plays a big role in that.
“In Galatians there is a scripture that says ‘to bear one another’s burdens, in this way we can uphold the law of Christ.’ I think I do that very well. And the longer I’ve been at Enterprise and the more experience I’ve gained while working here, I’m confident that I’ve chosen the right path.”
To learn more MSU-Meridian, visit us online at www.meridian.msstate.edu.
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