“text align: left;”>EDITOR’S NOTE: This is a republication of a series of articles we originally published in December 2016.
Teresa Jones and Anja Thiessen have very different backgrounds, but they both see education as a way to uproot entrenched poverty in the Mississippi Delta. Jones is from a small, unincorporated community about 25 miles east of the Mississippi River. Thiessen was raised near a different river, the Rhine, which flows past her hometown of Bensheim, Germany. Both women have helped build new education programs that focus on Delta youth. Jones’ efforts have focused on her hometown of Holly Bluff, located about 20 miles west of Yazoo City between the Delta National Forest and the Panther Swamp Wildlife Refuge. Thiessen is located in Coahoma County, which is about 70 miles south of Memphis, Tennessee, and part of the Clarksdale Micropolitan Statistical Area.
(This interview was completed this summer while Teresa was teaching. She is currently on an internship in Washington, D.C.) How did you come to be an educator in Holly Bluff, Mississippi? I was born and raised in the Holly Bluff, Mississippi, and I went to school at South Delta high school. I, then, went to Ole’ Miss and I received a legislative internship with Congressman Bennie Thompson[2nd District, Mississippi].. I secured a position at a contracting firm on Capitol Hill shortly thereafter. After a year and a half, I longed to be back home; however, it’s not because I necessarily missed home. There’s not exactly a lot of activity going on in the Delta. It’s mainly because I recognized a need there. There are a lot of Mississippians in D.C., but I recognized that one of the greatest assets in Washington, DC, is having a strong network. I realized back at my home town there isn’t really a big network of young people – or a means for getting ahead – because everyone leaves and they don’t look back. Well, The counselor at my alma mater high school told me that their English teacher quit in the middle of school year. The graduating class in May did not have an English teacher. So I got a one year teaching license and now I’m teaching at beside people that taught me. Teresa Jones