Staff, Supporters Gather to Celebrate Golden Graduates

Residents of Jackson Run Estates, Indian Run Honored in Special Ceremony

PEARL, Mississippi — Rhemalyn Lewis was in a jam. The service coordinator at United Church Homes’ Indian Run Estates and Jackson Run had been planning a summer party to celebrate the communities’ “golden” graduates – residents who graduated from high school 50 years ago. But then COVID-19 struck, and plans had to evolve. The challenges were no match for Rhemalyn, who has been with Indian Run (Pearl, Mississippi) for five years and Jackson Run (Jackson, Mississippi) for 10.

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Jackson Run Estates’ and Indian Run’s “golden” graduates line up to receive certificates from local officials. Rhemalyn Lewis (right), service coordinator, worked with the communities’ housing managers to make the residents feel special for graduating high school 50 years ago.

Safety and Celebration

Rhemalyn and housing managers Shermane Lawson and Lawanda Williams put extra precautions in place. That meant fewer invitations for a private ceremony with the close-knit communities instead of a ceremony open to the public. Rhemalyn invited local officials to confer certificates, and Dr. Ken Neorr, a resident of Indian Run, served as commencement speaker. Rhemalyn was determined to honor the golden graduates for their achievements.

The UCH staff members – or “warriors,” as they’ve been dubbed – ensured all attendees were committed to following guidelines to keep everyone safe, including the older adults who live at Indian Run and Jackson Run. The outdoor ceremony took place under Indian Run’s spacious gazebo, and the nine graduates lined up to receive certificates, wearing gold caps and gowns. golden graduates

“I’m honored to be recognized like this,” Jackson Run resident Cleveland Trussell said. “Some of us don’t have close family who treat us the way we were honored today, but we’ve built our own kind of family in this community.”

“I was just so surprised that somebody wanted to acknowledge us after 50 years!” resident and golden graduate Judy Ledford told a local news station.

Abundant Living Amid COVID-19

The event serves as an example of the benefits of aging in community and the creative ways United Church Homes employees have been addressing the challenges of living during the COVID-19 pandemic. Attendees were physically distanced by 6 feet or more. Visitors and some of the residents, who live independently with supportive social services, chose to wear masks. Although fewer people attended due to COVID-19, the graduates felt lifted on their special day.

Rhemalyn said many individuals and organizations came together to create a special memory for the eight residents – Ledford, Goldie Edmondson, Trussell, Paula Johnson, Linda Kowalski, Rodney Hull, Billy Simmons, Marge Roberts and Rosie Gowdy. They graduated from high school in Mississippi, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois. Read more about the golden graduates here.