New Meridian kinesiology program helps area student reach his goals

MERIDIAN, Miss.—In contemplating his future career, Trevor Ayllon searched for a strong undergraduate program that would prepare him for a professional degree in physical therapy.

The Newton resident now is enrolled in the new kinesiology program at MSU-Meridian.

He said a desire to stay close to home and the ability to save money took him first to East Central Community College in Decatur. It was while completing his studies there that he first learned of the new MSU-Meridian degree program just a short drive away.

A Phi Theta Kappa scholar at ECCC, Ayllon was one of 10 students initiated into the new Riley Scholars Program at the Meridian institution. “Amazed and shocked” were his reactions at being selected.

Made possible by the Lauderdale County-based Riley Foundation, the scholars program supports 10 two-year scholarships worth $2,500 each per academic year. Application requires completion of at least two years of community college study and a grade-point average of 3.25 or higher (based on a 4.0 scale).

Associate professor Ben Wax directs the kinesiology program, while Laura Hilton serves as instructor of exercise science and director of clinical exercise physiology laboratories. Both have extensive hands-on knowledge and experience in the field of clinical exercise physiology. 

Even though his father is a summa cum laude graduate of MSU-Meridian who spoke proudly of the excellent instruction he had received as a student, the son of Luis and Cindy Ayllon said he was “blown away” by his classroom experiences with Wax and Hilton.

“Honestly, the way they are preparing us is a bit more than I expected, especially for a first year program,” he said. “They are so thorough with the material, as well as sharing what we need to move on to the next level and how to maximize our time here at the university.”

In expressing appreciation at being named a Riley Scholar, Ayllon said he has been able to make it so far without incurring financial stress. This is especially important since PT training awaits in his future.

Whether coaching Little League or assisting military veterans like his father, Ayllon said his ultimate goal is to use his higher education to give back to his community.

For more about MSU-Meridian’s kinesiology program, visit

For more information about Mississippi State University, see

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