Mariah Sims was advised while in high school to attend a community college before transferring to a four-year university, and Sims is thankful for that decision as she begins her career.
About eight years after graduating from Ramsay High School in Birmingham, Sims holds an associate’s degree from Jefferson State along with a bachelor’s degree from UAB and a master’s of social work from the University of Alabama—and her first job will be in a management position.
“It was easier that way to me,” Sims said about beginning her higher education journey at Jefferson State. “I was still able to learn and get that much-needed academic experience, and make lots of good connections. It was a blessing doing that.”
Sims, 26, said she chose Jefferson State because of a scholarship offer and the college’s “welcoming atmosphere.” Her time at JSCC was beneficial because of the hands-on approach from instructors and “loving personalities” she experienced.
Sims’ honors at Jefferson State included the Academic Excellence Award, the Counselor’s Scholarship and inclusion in the Phi Theta Kappa Honor Society and Sigma Kappa Delta English Honor Society.
Influential faculty and staff members included Criminal Justice Program Coordinator Cecilia Tubbs, math instructor Margaret Thrasher, English instructor Robert Eastman and Shelby-Hoover Campus Librarian Elizabeth Pickens.
“I think all the way up to my high school years, to me I wasn’t the best writer; I really wanted to improve on that skill,” Sims said. “Ms. Tubbs did an excellent job of explaining the background of criminal justice. I used to talk to [Pickens] every day pretty much. I knew that when I was having a bad day, I could talk to her and she would give me wisdom. I loved her presence, and she was so kind to me. She was such an easy person to talk to about anything. It was bittersweet leaving Jefferson State because I had great memories there.”
But Sims’ time at Jefferson State prepared her to earn degrees from four-year universities and for her future career.
“I felt like that door had been opened for me,” Sims said. “It kind of taught me what having patience can do for you. It turned out to be a greater path than what I thought it would be.”
Following her Summa Cum Laude graduation from Jefferson State in 2014, Sims earned a Bachelor of Science in Criminal Justice degree with specialization in forensics from UAB in 2016, along with minors in social work and psychology, and a Master of Social Work degree from Alabama in 2020.
During her time at UA, Sims was an Americorps volunteer with the title of Re-entry and Prevention Coordinator and worked at the Jefferson County Public Defender’s Office in Birmingham. She also interned as a juvenile detention counselor at the Dekalb Regional Youth Detention Center in Decatur, Georgia.
Sims applied for a full-time position at the Dekalb Regional Youth Detention Center, and in early September begins work as the Designated Program Authority over the Juvenile Detention Counselors.
“I’m so excited to work,” she said.
Sims said beginning her academic career at Jefferson State helped to get her where she is today.
“Some people don’t want to go to community colleges, but I would tell them to explore your options,” Sims said. “You never know what a blessing looks like until you walk in the door. Don’t look down on community colleges because it could be one of the best things to happen to you and you don’t even know it.”