Monday, August 15, 2022

Community Gathers at “Hope for Jay” Rally to Pray for Safe Return of Ole Miss Student

By Makayla Steede

University of Mississippi Journalism Student

Photo by Savannah Shook

Family, friends, classmates and instructors joined with community members in the Circle at Ole Miss on Wednesday evening for a “Hope for Jay” rally to show support for Jimmie “Jay” Lee, who went missing on July 5, and call for his safe return home. 

The Department of Social Work organized the event with the help of the Associated Student Body and other student organizations to call the community together to talk about Lee and pray for him and his family.

Kara Gallagher, Lee’s classmate and fellow social work major, opened the gathering. 

“As social workers, we’re not going to stand from the sidelines,” Gallagher said. “We’re going to try and do something about it, so I want to thank all of you so much for coming out. It means a lot to the people who knew Jay. He was such an extroverted and outgoing individual.”

Lolita Gregory, assistant dean of undergraduate recruitment and retention at the School of Applied Sciences, offered the university’s support and prayers to Lee’s family and friends. 

“To the family, the Lee family, words can be difficult to find, but this rally is about hope,” Gregory said. “We know that hope shines a light where there’s darkness.”

The event was emotional, but, as Gregory emphasized, the tone was one of hope.

“I had the opportunity to meet Jay during our social work program,” Veronica Keith said during an opening prayer. “We finished the program together this spring, and he will be doing the advanced standing master’s program here at the university starting in August, and I know he’s going to be back for that. I’m waiting on all those messages.”

In a show of hope, stickers that read “Hope for Jay Lee” were passed out, along with bubbles as a sign of hope for the missing student. Many participants held posters expressing love and support.

Video by Emma Averett

“We want to blow bubbles as a sign for Jay to see, so he will know his way home,” Gallagher said. 

After attendees blew bubbles while listening to some of Lee’s favorite music, Ole Miss Vice Chancellor for Student Affairs Charlotte Pegues read a statement written by Lee’s mother, Stephanie Lee. She and Lee’s father Jimmie Lee were at the event, but did not speak publicly. 

“Jay Lee is a special kind of person,” Pegues read from the statement. “Jay has a deep passion for whatever he’s working on. Just yesterday, my husband and I had to go through some Amazon packages that Jay had previously ordered. We were overwhelmed in seeing how he was ordering baby items out of his own pocket to give out to children in need. That’s the kind of guy he is. It’s our prayer that Jay Lee comes home safe and sound.”

Precious Thompson, Lee’s classmate, led a closing prayer and after the event was over, said Lee was interning with Child Protective Services and fundraising and gathering donations for baby formula.

“Jay is an outgoing person,” Thompson said. “He’s proud of who he is. He’s loving. He’s part of social work and when you’re in social work, you love people.”

Thompson expressed confusion over Lee’s disappearance, but she did not despair. 

“We’re not here mourning him,” Thompson said. “But we’re here saying come home, Jay. We’re here. We’re waiting.”

Photo gallery by Savannah Shook

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