MAKING A DIFFERENCE: Dent inspires others in a variety of ways

Published 7:00 pm Monday, November 26, 2018

By Gabrielle Terrett

The Vicksburg Post

The majority of us spend our waking moments contemplating and complaining about what the day will consist for us, however, Dr. Deborah Dent wakes up with a mind full of thoughts about what she can do for others and how she can continue to progress.

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As a college professor and Chief Information Officer at Jackson State University, as well as first lady of Mount Carmel Ministries, Dr. Dent has a lot on her plate but somehow manages.

Growing up the daughter of a United States Airman, Dent spent time all over the country.

“My father was in the Air Force so therefore I was an Air Force Brat,” Dent said. “I was born in Greenville, but I started my schooling in Plattsburgh, New York. I stayed there until fifth grade and then we moved to Florida’s Eglin Air Force Base.”

Her father retired and moved the family to Hattiesburg.

“I wasn’t happy,” Dent said. “I started out at an all-black school in Hattiesburg and the story behind that is, when we were in New York, I took a standardized test and they told my parents that I would never be more than a C-student based off of my score.

“So when we got to Hattiesburg and my parents put me in a school there, I started making straight-A’s. My parents said it’s something wrong with that school. ‘If Deborah’s making straight-A’s it’s got to be something wrong with that school.’

“So the next year integration occurred and they moved me to another school, but during that year in the sixth grade all of the teachers kept encouraging me by saying ‘You’re so smart.’ They kept saying that and it got into me and when I got to the next school I just kept making straight-A’s.”

Changing directions

After high school, Dent completed her studies at the University of Southern Mississippi, where she majored in teaching and discovered her life’s calling.

“I graduated with honors from high school in Hattiesburg, the same little girl that they said wouldn’t be more than a C-student,” she said.

“I went to USM as an undergrad to learn to teach; I wanted to teach, then I took a computer science class and I was like ‘Wow! I love this,’ and so I switched my major to Computer Science. My mother was very upset with me because she said nobody had ever gotten a job with that,” Dent said. “This was during the 70s when computers were just coming out, but I said I love it.

“So one day I was in the lab minding my own business when my advisor asked me if I wanted to co-op. I didn’t even know what a co-op was. I agreed and we filled out all the paperwork and he drove me to Waterways, ERDC, and I interviewed for the position and got hired.”

Making an impact

Despite the odds that were stacked against her, Dent overcame her trials and today is one of the most successful women in Vicksburg.

The young girl who was labeled a C-student is now teaching students in the Computer Science Department at Jackson State University.

Along with having academics under her belt, she also has religion.

Dent and her husband, Mitchell Dent, are the founding pastors of Mount Carmel Ministries. The inspiration came from a search for something different than what they had seen in other churches.

“There were three families and we met up and talked,” Dent said. “We just didn’t like how things were going where we were and there was a lot of conflict. We wanted to go somewhere where it would be peaceful.

“My husband had always said that Vicksburg has a lot of churches and the last thing he wanted to do was start another church. After that things just worked out on their own and that’s how we started our ministry.”

As the congregation of the church expanded from a dozen original members in 2001, the site of the ministry moved multiple times — from their own house to a hotel and eventually to their present location on Grove Street.

Serving others

In addition to being a strong and respected person in the community, Dent also works hard to service others. She began doing community service work while at ERDC.

“One of the first people I met was Linda Sweezer through the work that she was doing at the Vicksburg Family Development Center,” Dent said. “I started volunteering there as a Big Sister. Then the people that I worked with talked to me about being a volunteer for the Center for Pregnancy Choices and I became a board member.”

She and Mount Carmel Ministries also do different activities in the community.

“My favorite is a summer camp that we sponsor,” Dent said. “We’re able to impact a lot of people in the community with that.”