As a high school student, Chadrick Franks dreamed of one day attending college and becoming a teacher. Thanks to a Lucky Day Community College Transfer Scholarship, the University of Mississippi alumnus has been able to fulfill that dream – and more.
The scholarship, which provides $6,000 per year for two years, is awarded competitively to 25 community college transfer students entering UM. Eligibility requirements include that recipients must be Mississippi residents, have a minimum 48 credit hours completed at a community college in Mississippi and a college GPA of at least 3.0.
The Mantachie native moved to Oxford, where he met and married his wife, Jessica, in 1998. He found work as a forklift operator at the Walmart distribution center in New Albany. While accepting the responsibilities of marriage, work and family, Franks still yearned to go to college.
“I finally had the opportunity to return to school in August of 2005,” he said. “I had lots of irons in the fire, but when our son, Noah, went off to kindergarten, it lightened the financial load.
“At 30 years old, I went from full-time to part-time at Walmart and began taking classes at Northwest Community College here for two years.”
Franks learned of the Lucky Day scholarship program through Donna Patterson, senior academic counselor in the UM School of Education.
“I transferred to Ole Miss because I love the school and because attending Ole Miss was logistically easy for me,” he said.
Franks said he found his coursework rigorous, but was determined to be the best student possible. He held a 4.0 GPA at NWCC and graduated magna cum laude from Ole Miss with a 3.91 GPA. He also received the Dr. Raymond Murvov Social Studies Teaching Award in spring 2009.
“These awards were really personally rewarding for me,” he said. “I wanted to honor Jesus by working as hard as I could when I was given a new opportunity.”
The Lucky Day Scholarship guaranteed that Franks could earn his bachelor’s degree in secondary education with no debt. At the time, he and his wife were raising their two young children.
“I worked to help make ends meet, but graduating debt-free was truly a blessing for us,” Franks said.
During Franks’ student teaching experience at Oxford Middle School, a full-time position came open there. At the principal’s encouragement, he applied for the job and was hired.
“The first day I entered the classroom as a teacher was absolutely amazing,” he said. “It was the realization of a dream I honestly had figured would never come true. I’m truly thankful that it did happen.”
Following graduation, Franks taught at OMS from 2009 to 2017 and at Oxford High School for the 2017-18 academic year. In both places, he taught history: U.S. Pre-Colombian through Reconstruction at OMS, and Modern World at OHS.
In 2017, Jessica Franks decided to start R&R Cookies, a bakery specializing in cakes and cookies. The idea for the business came following an accident in 2012 that left her temporarily unable to work.
“While recuperating at home, Jessica’s mother and grandmother bought her a KitchenAid mixer,” Franks said. “Jessica soon found that she enjoyed baking and that she was good at it.”
Jessica Franks mastered her cookie craft working out of the house, but returned to work as a physical therapy assistant at Baptist Memorial Hospital-North Mississippi and worked full-time there from the summer of 2013 until summer 2016.
After moving to part-time status, she opened R&R Cookies in February 2017 and quit her job at BMH-NM, after having worked there 21 years.
At first, son Noah worked with Jessica until he finished high school and went off to college. With her orders increasing, Jessica asked her husband to consider coming out of the classroom to work with her in the bakery full-time.
“She said with the money we’d be making from sales, she would be able to match my teacher’s salary,” Franks said. “More than that, we didn’t want the business to fold. Nothing is more important to me than family.”
In spring 2018, Franks stopped teaching and became general manager at R&R.
“My actual job is baker,” he said. “I bake everything that goes out of our store. I enjoy working with my hands and getting to see people’s faces when they see what we have made for them.
“Since I bake, I feel particularly honored when people compliment the taste of our sweets.”
One of the bakery’s loyal customers is Patrick Perry, director of the Lucky Day program and instructional assistant professor of higher education. Perry shared how he met Franks last year while picking up some cookies for the Lucky Day program.
“Chad told me he was a Lucky Day Education Scholar and that he greatly appreciated the scholarship, as it allowed him to get his degree and pursue his dream of teaching,” Perry said. “He also told me that he was now able to work with his wife so she could pursue her dream.
“What a great story: to follow his dream and then to honor the dream of his partner by working with her in the cookie business.”
Ole Miss continues to be a family tradition for the Franks family. Noah is a junior mechanical engineering major who is completing a co-op internship at Olin Winchester Ammunition. The couple’s daughter, Sarah, is a freshman at NWCC and studying business. She also decorates all the bakery’s cakes and case cookies.
Jessica Franks said she enjoys having her husband work with her in the business.
“My husband is my best friend,” she said. “There are challenges that come with being together 24 hours a day, but I would rather be with him than anyone else. We know one another’s minds, share a common goal and trust one another’s decisions.”
Frank Rogers Day, an Aberdeen native, was an alumnus of UM and the Graduate School of Banking at Louisiana State University. Besides serving as chairman of the board and CEO of Trustmark National Bank, Day committed himself to helping young Mississippians achieve their educational goals. In 1978, he established the Lucky Day Foundation to do just that.
Franks said his life has been even sweeter than the cakes and cookies he bakes.
“For me to have been able to go back to school at 30, earn a degree debt-free because of the Lucky Day Scholarship, and have realized my dream of becoming a teacher has truly been a gift from God,” he said. “I hope others who may have given up on their own dreams will be inspired by hearing my story. There is always hope.”
For more information about the Lucky Day Program, click here.
By Edwin B. Smith