From Jamaica to Meridian: Cadese Higgins leaps barriers, eyes future in business

Cadese Higgins with her cousin and brother celebrate after graduation.

It’s a long way from Claredon Parish, Jamaica, to Meridian, Mississippi, nearly 2,000 miles, and for Cadese Higgins, a 21-year-old native of that Caribbean island, Meridian Community College has been the springboard for her educational and athletics pursuits in the United States. 

Higgins came to MCC in August 2022 for her first year to join the Lady Eagles in track and has competed in the 400-meter events. 

“I have a passion for sports; that’s what my mom always wanted me to do,” she said. Higgins, who wears a heart-shaped necklace with her mother’s photo encircled in the design, explained that her mother, who lived in Jamaica, passed away shortly before Higgins returned to her collegiate studies. “It was extremely hard to come back to school. It was hard, but I did it for her; I really do miss her terribly.” 

Despite her loss, Higgins persevered and came back to MCC, passing all her University Transfer Program classes; this term, she received three A’s and one B. Her routine combined back-to-back morning classes, mandatory study halls, and afternoon track practices; on the weekends, there were track meets in Mississippi and beyond.  

Her efforts have not gone unnoticed; Higgins has received scholarship offers from Albany State in Georgia, Tusculum University in Tennessee, and the University of West Alabama. She hopes to continue her studies in business management and aspires to become an entrepreneur. “I want to work for myself,” she added. 

Reflecting on her MCC experience, Higgins said she found a home with her teammates, friends, and College staffers. “I’ve been to other states, and the people are tense or rough. Here in Meridian, I feel like it’s home. I don’t get the negative from this environment. That’s an advantage. I love it here.” 

Graduations bring family and friends to join the celebration, which holds true for Higgins. “My little brother, my older sister, and one of my cousins are at graduation to support me,” Higgins said about MCC’s commencement. “This was my cousin and brother’s first time coming to America.” 

With travel comes paperwork, and that’s where MCC’s Registrar’s office came in to help. 

Cadese Higgins, center, with MCC Office of Registrar staffers Janet Parrett and Deborah Oldham.

Higgins’ family needed official documents to enter the States to attend Higgins’ graduation, so Higgins reached out to Deborah Oldham, director of admissions and registrar, and Janet Parrett, assistant to the registrar, where they wrote a letter to the embassy in Jamaica for Higgins’ family members asking for permission for them to attend the ceremony. “We’re glad the letter helped,” Oldham said, noting the department had written a handful of similar letters. 

The week after graduation, Higgins will join her Eagle teammates in a national championship event in Monroe, Louisiana, where she’ll be competing in the 400 and the 4 by 4 relay. “I’ll be the start leg,” she said. She’s hopeful that there will be another scholarship opportunity after this competition. 

Higgins plans a surprise summer visit to Jamaica before returning to the U.S. for a new chapter in her life. 

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