Willie James Young, Jr. was recently named the new director of alumni affairs at Mississippi Valley State University.
“I’m very excited about being here at Valley,” Young said. “It’s kind of like a homecoming, but it’s also an opportunity to make a difference.”
Most recently, Young has worked as the personnel director for the Greenwood Public School District, a position he held from July of 2003 until June of this year.
As director of alumni affairs, Young hopes to reconnect with as many alumni as possible. He is building a database of alumni contact information in order to keep alumni abreast of current events at Valley. “There’s strength in numbers,” Young said. He hopes to get more alumni volunteering their time and resources to the university in order to help the institution in its mission to meet the educational needs of its students.
A native of Greenwood, Miss., Young has been instrumental in the development of the lives of many young people, in particular young men, in the Leflore County area. Because of his desire to develop the whole person, he has often gone far beyond the call of duty to give love, support and time to the young people of this community.
In 1980, Young began his professional career in Greenwood at Republic Finance, Inc., where he eventually became a branch manager. In 1992, he became the owner and manager of C&W Collection Services and an independent associate for Pre-Paid Legal Services (now LegalShield) in 1998. He has worked as a lead counselor with Three Rivers Community Economic Development Corporation’s Leflore County Juvenile Report Center in 2001-2002, and as director of the Education and Training Institute’s Leflore County Fatherhood Initiative Program from 2002-2003. He served as head coach of the Greenwood High School Baseball Team during the 2003 season.
Young is a 1976 graduate of Greenwood High School, where he was involved in the baseball program and other school activities. He graduated with honors in 1980 from Mississippi Valley State University with a bachelor’s degree in fine arts. While at MVSU, he was captain of the MVSU Baseball Team and the Most Valuable Player during the 1980 season. He was also a member of Alpha Chi National Honor Society.
“As a first generation college graduate, I truly understand the value of our wonderful university and the impact it has had on the lives of so man,” Young said.
Throughout the years, Young has dedicated his service to several community projects. He has served as co-founder of the Davis School Male Mentor Program, president of the Davis School Parent Teacher Association, a member of the Greenwood Public Schools Strategic Planning Committee, and coach/secretary-treasurer of the New Stone Street Baseball League.
A member of the Baptist faith, Young is a member of Salem Missionary Baptist Church, where he serves as superintendent of the Sunday school.
“I am a true believer that, to whom much is given, much is required,” Young said. “I encourage all alumni to be an even greater part of the bright future of our beloved alma mater.”
An avid baseball fan, Young enjoys hunting, fishing, baseball, golf and cooking in his spare time.
Young and his wife, Wanda Young, are the parents of two adult children, Courtney JeLecia and Willie, III. He is the son of the late Willie J. Young, Sr. and Mary Young of Greenwood.
They work to bridge the gap between the citizens of the City of Dallas and the police department. They also work to build successful relationships with local businesses.
“We assess the needs of the community and address quality of life issues,” said Vaughn.
“‘Chief On The Beat’ is an ongoing community engagement initiative where we bring local businesses like health and public safety vendors, for the public to see what services are available to them,” said Vaughn.
“Volunteering is a valuable element,” said Vaughn, who originally offered to help out at a community engagement event. Because of his positive attitude and willing spirit, he was soon offered the position of community engagement officer.
“I don’t have a specific beat; I go where there is a need. I handle topics like drug awareness, anti-bullying, identify theft, theft, burglary and robbery prevention, holiday safety, banking safety, suspicious activity awareness and 911 education,” said Vaughn.
Vaughn earned a bachelor’s in speech communications from Mississippi Valley State University with a minor in vocal music education.
Titled My Delta Blues, the novel is about a 15-year-old boy who has recently moved to the Delta from Chicago to live with his grandmother. The story takes place over one summer, yet through flashbacks, Lipsey delves into the history of his young protagonist, Malachi, exploring the events that both influenced his character and instigated the challenges he faces going forward.
“Even though this is a fiction story, lots of the things that happen are things that I experienced or things that are true to other people’s experiences,” Lipsey said. Still, My Delta Blues is not a roman à clef – Malachi at 15 is a different person from Lipsey at that same age.
He emphasized that many of the more traumatic experiences that take place in the Delta, ranging from growing up without a father to sexual abuse, take place in other places, yet oftentimes they’re not discussed openly.
“I hope that people take away that in the black community we have to start talking about these things,” Lipsey said. “I want people to realize that the secrets, the lies, the duplicity – these things make you messed up as a child, and if you’re a messed up child, you grow up to be a messed up adult.”
While the story is about a teenager from the north who moves to Mississippi, Lipsey said that he thinks the book reflects on experiences relevant to a broad section of the reading public, and not just Mississippians. He hopes the novel attracts a wide audience of readers.
My Delta Blues was first published as an ebook by Read Publishing, a startup publishing firm, though he has recently published a print version through Fundcraft, a Tennessee-based publisher.
Although Malachi, Lipsey’s protagonist, is from Chicago, Lipsey was raised much closer to home in nearby Greenville. After finishing his undergraduate education in 2000, he worked for Wwiscaa, a nonprofit community action agency, for several months before getting a job as a substitute teacher for Greenville Public Schools. In 2001, he became a high school teacher in Greenville, and after his first full year of teaching, he came to MVSU in the summer of 2002 to obtain his M.A. in Teaching.
“Going to Valley – Most of my professors knew my struggle. They understood what I was going through – they really cared.”
In many ways, Malachi’s struggle to overcome obstacles and personal setbacks mirrors Lipsey’s own struggle to be his “true and authentic self.” His journey toward self-actualization led him to the works of African American author, director, and academic Omowale Akintunde, who he considers a mentor. Through Akintunde, he learned that a deeper level of fulfillment is possible through the process of deconstruction – taking apart all the norms, assumptions, and ideologies learned over a lifetime and unveiling who you really are beneath it all.
Lipsey started writing My Delta Blues in 2005, not long after graduating from Valley. He rewrote the novel six times before having it published. To finish the novel, for two years he wrote every night before going to bed. At first, he said that much of what he wrote were long passages with no characters, but after a while he began to imagine characters and their stories seemed to start writing themselves.
He cites Song of Solomon and There Eyes Were Watching God as sources of inspiration. The perspective of My Delta Blues, written in the first person, is that of a teenager’s. “When describing these things,” Lipsey said, “I saw myself describing them as a child. I drew from personal experiences and the way that he describes things is very much the way that I would’ve described them at that age.” In some ways, he sees Malachi as a part of himself, even though the events of Malachi’s life don’t match up with his own.
With this book now complete, Lipsey is hoping that it can serve, in part, as a launch board for other things. He stated that he would like to do some public and motivational speaking. He also discussed wanting to be a guest lecturer at a college. “I’m an educator,” he said, stating that the work that he does with his students, he would like to bring to a wider audience. “I would like to inspire anyone who can’t see the forest for the trees, that you can do it.”