Hardin-Simmons University is proud to celebrate the accomplishments of James Jesse ’04 as an Outstanding Young Alumni Award for 2023.
James Jesse attended Hardin-Simmons University, graduating in 2004 with a Bachelor of Arts in English and Philosophy. As a person whose family experienced generational poverty, James found freedom and opportunity through his HSU education. Since graduation, he has devoted his life to helping others in the same way.
James joined the staff of Tarrant County College in 2008 as assistant coordinator of student support services. Two years later, he became assistant director of the college’s TRIO student support program, helping students who had financial challenges or disabilities obtain college degrees.
In 2010, James co-founded Opportunity Resources Services (ORS), an educational nonprofit facilitating higher education opportunities for first-generation and low-income youth. He established 501(c)3 status, developed a strategic plan, recruited board members, and wrote funding grants. He also led the development of the ORS core values and pillars of growth.
In 2019, James became vice president of ORS programs, leading a team serving thousands of low-income youth and adults while also establishing numerous connections with community leaders. He oversaw seven ORS programs in all, ensuring each achieved objectives and met performance measures.
During his career, James has established nine college access programs for low-income youth and adults and developed partnerships with 15 school districts and over 100 nonprofit organizations and businesses. He has raised $28 million in federal grant funds, hired employees focusing on equity and inclusion and managed annual budgets of more than two million dollars.
James helped lead ORS for almost a decade but now new challenges beckon. A master’s candidate at Louisiana State University, James will graduate in August with a Master of Arts in Nonprofit Leadership.
James has received the Best of the Best award from the Johnson County Cleburne Times Review and the Community Excellence Award from the East Cleburne Community Center. The Texas Higher Education Coordinating Board also nominated him for a STAR Award.
In all his efforts, James works with the passion of one who has been in the place of those he serves. He credits his experiences at HSU for setting him on that path of service, noting that the faith his HSU professors had in him inspired him to believe in himself and deepened his faith in God.
He also notes that the presidential scholarship he received at Hardin-Simmons offered him a way to access a college education, break out of poverty and change not only his future but his family’s. He has used the skills he learned at HSU to help many other low-income students and is grateful every day for the opportunity to do so.
James lives in Burleson, Texas with his wife Mary, a 2003 HSU graduate, and their three children.
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