Hed: Youngest legislator picks up Phi Theta Kappa award
By Bobby Harrison
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
Jamie Franks of Mooreville, the youngest member of the Mississippi Legislature, was one of four people chosen to receive the Phi Theta Kappa/W.K. Kellogg Leadership Award.
Franks, who owns his own landscaping business in Lee County, was selected from a field of 6,500 people nominated by instructors who taught Phi Theta Kappa leadership training classes. Phi Theta Kappa is an international honor society for two-year colleges. The society’s leadership training class is taught at more than 230 schools internationally, including every state except North Dakota.
Franks, who is now 23, was 22 when he was elected to the Mississippi House of Representatives in November. He has a political science degree from the University of Mississippi. He took the Phi Theta Kappa leadership class while attending Itawamba Community College in Fulton.
He was nominated by his leadership class instructors – Dr. Ken Bishop and John Wilson.
“Jamie is very industrious,” Wilson said. “He was a very successful businessman as a teen-ager with his landscaping business. He showed real signs of leadership. We are real proud of him. I would like to think we left him with something he can use down the road as he functions as a state leader.”
Franks, who serves District 19, which includes portions of Lee, Itawamba and Tishomingo counties, said the knowledge he gained in the class helped him during his campaign and during his first year in the state House.
“It helped me in dealing with people,” Franks said. “As a freshman in the House – and especially as the youngest member – you can feel like a little peon. You have to present yourself in a way to get the respect of the older members so that you can get things accomplished to help your constituents.”
In the Phi Theta Kappa leadership development studies course, great figures of history, literature and philosophy are studied for their leadership abilities. Wilson said all of the students participating in the one-semester class “are pretty much a special breed.”
The instructors for the class receive special training from Phi Theta Kappa.
Carlene Feldman of Phi Theta Kappa, which is based in Jackson, said the course was developed with the help of a $1.8 million grant from the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, based in Battle Creek, Mich. The Phil Hardin Foundation, based in Meridian, also provided funding to help place the class in the Mississippi schools. In Mississippi, the class is taught in all 15 public community and junior colleges and two private ones.
The Kellogg Foundation provided another grant of $100,000. Part of this money was used to select and honor the recipients of the leadership award.
Franks and the other three were honored during a ceremony in April in Washington, D.C.
During his speech at the awards ceremony, Franks said he talked about how he has put the leadership practices he learned during the course to work in his campaign, his business and in the state Legislature.
The three other winners came from Hawaii, Pennsylvania and Minnesota.
The original field of 6,500 was pared down to 25, who had to submit a 1,000-word essay on the leadership roles they had assumed after completing the course. A panel developed by the Kellogg Foundation and Phi Theta Kappa selected the four honorees.
“It is a big honor to be selected from 6,500 people,” Franks said.