By Michael Neary
The Meridian Star, Miss.
WWR Article Summary (tl;dr) From the deeply supportive family and community they found in Meridian, the two Sims sisters carved out starkly different — if equally successful — paths. Here are their stories.
The Meridian Star, Miss.
As Georgia Sims considered the Meridian home on 41st Avenue where her children grew up, she described the dwelling as a neighborhood magnet.
“This was the hangout house,” she said.
The house is also where she and her husband, James Sims Jr., raised two daughters who followed career paths that were different in just about all ways — except for the fact that both paths curled into places outside of Meridian where the sisters have succeeded spectacularly.
“I’ve told them that there’s a big old world out there, and it needs to be explored,” Georgia Sims said. “They have done a fantastic job of exploring it.”
Jamese Sims, along with her son Jordan, recently visited the home where she grew up. Other relatives, including her sister Eris Sims, were present — and they took time to share memories of their childhoods, along with reflections about the courses of their adult lives.
Climate’s allure, and a mind for business
Jamese Sims, 37, has thought about the enigma of weather — and about ways to solve other sorts of problems — for a long time. When she was 4 years old, and after her family moved from Indiana to Meridian, she began to wonder about the weather. How, she remembers thinking, could the climate be so different in one place from the way it was in another?
“That was always in the back of my mind,” Jamese Sims said. “How is it that in Indiana it’s freezing cold, snowing, and we’re walking around in shorts? In addition to that, my grandmother used to predict what was going to happen, based on her arthritis … and a lot of times it was true.”
It’s the sort of question that many children ask, but fewer end up earning a Ph.D. in Atmospheric Sciences from Howard University before becoming the satellite project manager (algorithm engineer) for the internationally recognized GOES-R Series, helping to shape cutting-edge data about storms and other natural phenomena. Last summer’s solar eclipse was among the natural events that Jamese Sims’ work helped to illuminate.
Jamese, who lives in Bowie, Maryland, works for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association.
For Eris Sims, 40, a sort of wonder descended upon her when her family traveled — and particularly when the family stayed at motels.
“I remember staying in what would be considered now a motel,” she said. “There was something about this facility that was just appealing to me.”
She described the whole experience of checking in and staying overnight as something that kindled corners of her imagination.
“So my goal, going into college, was to become a general manager and to be an entrepreneur — to own my own hotels, restaurants,” Eris Sims said. “But as I got into the major, I decided I wanted to plan more, and not really go the general-manager route.”
Eris Sims’ career took her to the National Headquarters of the NAACP, located in Baltimore, Maryland, where she serves as senior director of events and planning. She lives in Glenarden, Maryland.
“We help others in the area of economics, and through civil rights,” she said. “The association has been around for 108 years. Having the opportunity to work for an organization that is that old and that historic — you just can’t pass up that opportunity. I’ve been blessed.”
Starting out in Meridian
Eris and Jamese Sims grew up in Meridian and thrived in the Meridian Public School System with support from various parts of the community. The family moved to Meridian when Eris was 7 and Jamese was 4 — or, more accurately, their parents moved back to the area where they’d grown up.
Education, Georgia Sims said, played a supreme role in family life — and it was not an optional role.
“Not going to college was not even discussed,” she said. “That was not an option.”
Georgia Sims, who taught at George Washington Carver Middle School, said she worked to be a role model of education for her children.
Both children had their own separate gifts. Georgia Sims described Eris as a leader, and she recalled Eris holding a book, as a tiny child, about how to raise parents.
“She tried to (do that),” Georgia Sims said with smile, talking recently in the home where her daughters grew up. “In a good way. It wasn’t that she was defiant in any way, but she was a leader.”
“I found an old receipt book,” she said, again with the trace of a chuckle. “When we had a good day, she would write me these big checks. But when she and I had gotten into it, my little check would be very minimal.”
Georgia Sims underlined the importance of flexibility — on the part of parents — when working with children’s long-term hopes.
“I believe you cannot tell children what to do with their lives, as far as careers are concerned,” she said. “Whatever their interest is, if you realize it, you should try to enhance it as best you can.”
Eris Sims went on to earn a bachelor’s degree concentrating on hotel administration from Cornell University.
As for Jamese, Georgia Sims said, “Math was her thing — and she excelled in it.”
She recalled the way Jamese’s professors spotted her talents at Jackson State University, where Jamese earned a bachelor’s degree in meteorology.
“The professors in the meteorology department recognized her abilities, and Dr. (S. Remata) Reddy just kind of took her under his wing and sent her to internships every summer,” she said.
One of those internships was with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, where she now works, and through NOAA she received funding for her doctoral studies at Howard University.
James Sims Jr. described his own approach with his daughters as a kind of caring sternness.
“I would take them to school every year, and I would tell the teachers, ‘If anything happens with them, call me, because I know they don’t want me coming — because if I come, it will mean I had to leave my work,'” he recalled. Sims worked as an attendant at Northwood Country Club when the two children were growing up.
“I never had to do that,” he said. “They just always succeeded.”
A revered teacher
Both sisters lauded the community where they were raised, noting that it supplied just the right combination of nudges and chances to help them to succeed. Eris Sims served as student body president for Meridian High School, and she said she benefited especially from the “Cinderella Service Club,” which existed at the high school when she attended in the 1990s. Jamese also participated in the group.
“It was teaching us to be ladies, but also ladies of service,” Jamese Sims said.
Jamese Sims is a member of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc., a sorority, she said, that was “established in principles of sisterhood and service.” She joined the sorority at Jackson State University.
And that kind of service, Jamese Sims said, is a thread running through just about all of the projects she and her sister undertook — including the ones at St. Paul United Methodist Church.
“In pretty much all of the youth groups we were in, we had to do public service,” she said.
But requirements to complete service projects are one thing. The two also described adults in their lives who illustrated that concept in ways that carved deep grooves in their imaginations. They both recalled Ernest Smith, who taught Jamese and Eris Sims — as well as their mother — in a teaching career of more than 50 years.