How One Student Achieved Success and Now Supports Others

TJ McIntosh was scanning his Twitter feed when he found out he had been awarded a coveted Jack Kent Cooke (JKC) Foundation Undergraduate Transfer Scholarship. Official notification arrived by email minutes later. “My mom and I hugged for about 20 minutes,” he says. “I wasn’t even going to apply,” he adds. “My mom kept encouraging me.”

A recent graduate of Itawamba Community College (ICC), TJ will head to Mississippi College in the fall. The JKC scholarship, which provides generous financial support toward a four-year degree, will go a long way in helping TJ pursue his dream of becoming a doctor.

“He’s one of our best and brightest,” says ICC President Dr. Jay Allen, citing TJ’s academic achievements and active engagement in campus life. “He’s poured a lot into the college.”

Among his contributions, TJ tutored students in the Minority Achievement Network for Upward Progression (MAN UP) program. Launched by ICC in 2019 with support from the Woodward Hines Educational Foundation, MAN UP seeks to equip minority males with the skills to overcome barriers in life and achieve academic success. The program’s comprehensive approach includes academic tutoring, mentoring, life skills workshops, and career development.

TJ speaks fondly of his advisor, Dr. Emily Tucker, who wrote her dissertation on minority males in two-year colleges, and co-founded MAN UP, along with Dr. Bobby Solomon. “I’m so glad she had the vision to start a program like this,” says TJ. “Minority males don’t always have the leg up in the real world or the academic world. I’m glad she gave us our own space to encourage each other in our choices.”

For his part, TJ tutored students for seven to eight hours a week in English, science, math, and “anything else they needed help with.” He also participated in recruitment lunch sessions and informal events inviting minority male speakers to reflect on their careers and how they overcame obstacles. 

TJ attributes his motivation to ‘give back’ to the many people who supported his own journey, including his parents, teachers, advisors, and even doctors, who invited TJ to shadow them. He also credits his membership in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society, with its emphasis on leadership development and service to the community.

“My parents always pushed me to pursue anything I put my mind to,” he says, adding that other minority students aren’t so fortunate and can experience low self-esteem. TJ’s advice for addressing the achievement gap among minority male students is straightforward. “You need to remain committed to them, to let them know you’re there for them.”

At ICC, he found a community and culture that strives to do just that. “I can’t say enough about my ICC family,” he says. “Everyone has been in my corner. I can’t go into a building without someone pushing me on to what I want to do.”

TJ’s excited to begin Mississippi College in the fall and to eventually attend medical school. Ultimately, he hopes to open a primary care clinic in the rural community of Wren in northeast Mississippi where he grew up.

Posted by Courtney Lange at 9:26 AM