Many folks have a longing to leave the place where they grew up, but for some, there's no place they'd rather be to invest in the community and build a life. The same is true for this week's Home Town homeowner, Jermarcus Ross.
Jermarcus is the Director of Tumbling and All-Star Cheer coach at ACE, a local cheerleading training facility. He grew up in the local area around Laurel and has been an active member of the Laurel community for a long time. He attended Northeast Jones High school and was voted "Most Handsome," an award that he jokingly admits is the highlight of his life. His most fond memories come from his time in the youth group when he met Erin and Ben. Long before Home Town was ever a thing, Erin was still designing and operating her luxury stationery business, and Ben was the Youth Minister at the local Methodist church.
"When I was in Fellowship of Christian Athletes at Northeast, a bunch of football buddies decided we were going to go to church on Wednesday nights. That's when I met Big Ben. He was the youth minister, and he just brought this joy to all these young people. I loved being with him, and I kind of just look forward to going every week. The way he interacted with all the kids and football players, it was like Jesus had just picked him up and threw him to us. When you're in high school, you just want to have fun, but I grew up seeing how God was using Ben, and that's how I grew a relationship with God. Back then, he wasn't Ben from Home Town; he was just Big Ben Napier. Watching him interact with kids and bringing a positive message about Christ while having fun made things make sense for me. Why can't we all be like that? It's why I went into my profession with students."
After high school, Jermarcus made a name for himself at Jones County Junior College and was active in Bobcat Brigade, an association that welcomes prospective students to campus, and the Student Government Association, an organization that planned activities and advocated for the student body. He then transferred to the University of Southern Mississippi in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, to major in Public Relations and Business.
"My college experience was a pretty hometown experience because everyone that I cheered with and met at Jones was there. It was a well-connected group of people and a great start to my business and public relations journey. Although I discovered that my passion was for helping students rather than sitting in an office."
What Jermarcus realized after college is that his love for sports and teaching student-athletes never subsided after high school and college. He was offered a position at Laurel Christian High School and began teaching students and coaching the Cross Country and Basketball team. He hadn't planned on teaching after majoring in something completely different, but he was open to the idea. He shares,
"When I started, I didn't know what to expect. I was kind of thrown into the water to see how much I liked it and see how the kids would take to me. Ever since that day, it's been a pretty awesome experience to learn and grow with that same group of kids for the last five years."
When the opportunity arose for Jermarcus to stay or leave his hometown, he decided to stay and keep investing in the lives of young people and cheering them on, literally. He became the Director of Tumbling at ACE soon after and has been building relationships through coaching and impacting the lives of hundreds of students each week. Yet something was missing. He needed a place to call his home, a place to lay down roots.
"I had just turned 26 when I started looking at houses. It was so funny because I grew up thinking that we're supposed to leave, like people my age don't stay here. We want bigger and better things, and for a long time, we just feel like we can't live out our dreams here. Once I sat down and kind of reevaluated my life, I just knew I wasn't done in Laurel. There were so many opportunities to mentor young adults and it also felt good to build a foundation here. To buy a house in Laurel and work with Erin and Ben on Home Town just made it even more special."
Jermarcus shares, "Working with Erin and Ben rekindled that friendship that was there so many years ago in youth ministry. We just loved on each other the whole time, and people ask me all the time if Ben and Erin are as nice as they are on TV. I'm like, Oh my gosh, you have no idea. It's like ten times better than what you see on TV. When you meet them in person, you're like, how can this be real?"
Jermarcus hopes to use his home as a way to welcome others and share hospitality with people from all walks of life. He says it's a place where he feels most at home now.
"When I walk into my house, it just feels so warm. Erin's color choices were the best, and they made all the difference. I don't have to drive back to my mom's house or my grandmother's house to get that home feeling. It feels like home, but even more special because it's my home. They [Erin and Ben] filled and built it with love. I feel it every time I walk through that yellow door."
It was a delight to watch Jermarcus get his dream home as his first home! We're excited to see how he grows and how many students are impacted by his love and teaching over the years. Welcome home, Jermarcus!