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Graduate Spotlight: Determination, tenacity make Mitchell’s dream of Lipscomb education come true

Kim Chaudoin  | 

Jazzmin Mitchell

Jazzmin Mitchell does not give up easily when she sets her mind to accomplish something even when her plan does not play out the way she intends it to. 

On Saturday, Mitchell will celebrate the accomplishment of earning her Bachelor of Social Work degree. But to reach this significant milestone, Mitchell had to overcome a number of obstacles.  

Mitchell’s journey began in 2013 when she became the first in her family to graduate from high school. Though she dreamed of attending Lipscomb at the time, financial circumstances prevented her from doing so. So, she attended Middle Tennessee State University and though working very hard, as a first-generation college student she says she became overwhelmed.

“I failed with a 0.0 GPA both semesters,” recalls Mitchell. “I was seeking my identity and validation from everything and everyone else but God who is the only one that can fulfill that need.”

She pushed pause on college and saw her dreams of earning a degree slipping away. 

For three years she worked, and married her husband, Cameron, in 2017. With his encouragement, Mitchell says she finally decided to “face my fears” and enrolled in Motlow State Community College that same year. She earned a 4.0 GPA and joined Phi Theta Kappa International Honor Society. It was here that she discovered her ​​passion for helping people through service, advocacy and justice work.

“As the PTK TN regional secretary I served hundreds of students with my regional team, and was able to edify many non-traditional students like myself,” explains Mitchell. “I used that platform to share my story of failure and success unapologetically.”

It's truly GOD'S WILL that He provided the perfect path and provision for me to be a graduate of Lipscomb. It was always meant for me to attend this school, and I am proud of it. — Jazzmin Mitchell

That experience led her to connect with a Lipscomb transfer counselor who encouraged her to apply for the university’s Transfer Trustee Scholarship

“I took my shot, and shared my story with him. He said, ‘We have the perfect scholarship for you!’ I applied for the Transfer Trustee Scholarship.”

Eighty students applied that year. Mitchell became one of eight to be awarded a Transfer Trustees Scholarship. That year, Mitchell graduated summa cum laude from Motlow State. With her new scholarship in hand, Mitchell finally attended the school of her dreams — Lipscomb University. 

“And, now, by the grace of God, I am a graduate,” she says proudly. “Lipscomb was my very first choice coming out of Pearl-Cohn High School back in 2013 because of the integration of faith! But I didn't have enough funds. So, it's truly GOD'S WILL that He provided the perfect path and provision for me to be a graduate of Lipscomb. It was always meant for me to attend this school, and I am proud of it.” 

Mitchell quickly became very active on campus. She was involved with the Office of Intercultural Development, helping them plan events; served as a mentor in the Joshua Project; participated in PBS Social Work Club service projects, and joined hip hop classes on campus. In November 2019, she presented her research, "The Christian Call to Restorative Justice," at The Gathering and this year presented her capstone research "Using Trauma-informed Practices to Mitigate Compassion Fatigue in a Faith-based Nonprofit.” This spring, Mitchell was selected for the Social Work Leadership Award and  as the 2022 recipient of the Stephen Lee Marsh Christian Example Award.

“For so long I worked hard feeling like I needed to prove myself to everyone. But in so many words and gestures in the past three years, the faculty and staff in the Department of Social Work and Sociology have shown me that I am enough and I am intended for this work,” says Mitchell. “God made me for more than just my career, but for His Kingdom, and I will gladly serve him!”

Mitchell says a number of individuals have encouraged her in quest to earn a bachelor’s degree. 

"Dr. Cayce Watson, Professor Rebecca Clark, Professor Amy Crossland and Professor Autumn Maxwell have all pushed me beyond measure, helping me to see what's really inside of me,” she says. "My mother has always been one of my biggest cheerleaders, and I thank her for all the sacrifices she made for me to achieve my dreams! My father and parents-in-Law have been a constant source of encouragement. Bethel Community Church has been a safe place for me to grow into who I am. My mentor, Coach LaToya NaShae, helped me to understand my identity in Christ and to be faithful in the process! The most of all, my beloved husband, Cameron L. Mitchell. His love for God's people and his entrepreneurship mentality drives me to be brave to use all the gifts God has given me to serve His Kingdom!”

After graduation, Mitchell will continue her work with Free Frye, an arts organization she established with her husband in 2020 that serves communities through Spoken Word poetry, keynote speaking and creative workshops. They will leave for a poetry tour later this month with stops in Murfreesboro, Memphis, Chicago and New York City. In June, she will begin work on Advanced Standing Master’s Degree in Social Work at University of Tennessee Knoxville- Nashville Campus. 

And how does Mitchell feel about completing her Bachelor of Social Work degree? 

“You know, it's still very surreal. I realize that this social work degree was more than just school for me,” she reflects. “It was part of my healing journey. I needed this experience in order to be the healed and whole woman I am today. This social work program is rigorous coursework, but it also deals with the inner person. I knew I had to heal before I helped someone else walk through their healing process. I chose to be intentional with my time here and take advantage of the knowledge and resources. I praise God that He has answered my prayers!”