His Apex Leadership peer leader, Lori Simpson, guided Cellas through the application process and explained the steps he needed to take to become an Ole Miss student. And a big part of Cellas' successful college start can be traced to the UM admissions counselor for his area at the time, Neal Ann (Parker) Chamblee, who was there every step of the way.
"Neal Ann visited Morton High School to talk to me about what I need to be doing in order to become a student," Cellas said. "She walked me through the Special Programs and Scholarship application step-by-step and explained how housing worked.
"From not really being interested in attending college or understanding the steps to get there, thanks to Lori and Neal Ann, here I am now getting ready to graduate."
Simply getting into college was not the end goal. For Cellas, making the most of the opportunity, immersing himself into university life and excelling were top priorities. But he admits that being a first-generation college student meant that he was not fully prepared, and the transition was difficult.
"If you have not been a college student, then you cannot relate to what a student goes through each day," Cellas said. "Not being able to talk to family about school and academics was the most difficult challenge for me to overcome.
"I spent my entire first semester in the Ole Miss writing center, library and free tutoring sessions for a majority of my classes. I was determined to stay by any means necessary."
And stay he did.
While freshman year presented challenging circumstances and emotional hurdles, Cellas fully embraced college life and jumped at every opportunity and experience he could fit into his packed schedule.
With a list of activities, accolades and awards a mile long, Cellas has a hard time narrowing down his favorite experiences. He studied abroad in Italy and Poland. He worked as an archeologist assistant in the field. He gave tours as an Ole Miss Ambassador. He was an active member of Phi Beta Sigma fraternity, including serving as chapter president and was named the 2019 co-Greek Man of the Year for the university.
He was also a research assistant in the Department of BioMolecular Sciences and a summer counselor for the Division of Outreach and Continuing Education. He was a Luckyday Scholar. He helped charter the Minority Association of Premedical Students and served as its vice president. He earned a Distinguished Research Citation Award from the School of Pharmacy. And he was selected for the 2018-19 Ole Miss Who's Who.
"Being at Ole Miss has been a transformative experience and so much more than I ever imagined it could be," he said. "I thank Ole Miss for the opportunities and for being the best university for me."
For Cellas, all his college experiences have been more than just a checklist of accomplishments; they were about meeting a diverse group of people and creating relationships that will last a lifetime.
"The biggest thing is to surround yourself with individuals who are going to push you, sustain you and, most importantly, support whichever decision you choose to make," he said.
Among those whom Cellas surrounded himself were faculty members who shaped and inspired him, including Nicole Ashpole, Ryan Upshaw, Hilary Becker, Aileen Ajootian and Brian Foster. As Foster, assistant professor of sociology and Southern studies explained, inspiration can be a two-way street.
"College is a tricky thing," Foster said. "Young people have to learn who they are, develop some sense of what they want to do in life, navigate changing family and other types of relationships, work and figure out their finances, and reckon with the unexpected and traumatic, all while trying to make it to class on time and keep up with assignments and readings.
"I've known Cellas for some years now, and all the while I've watched and marveled as he did all of the above and more ... masterfully. His journey has not been easy or simple. It's been tricky. But, he's worked magic, and despite my being nearly 10 years older than him, I admire him for that. He's special, and I cannot wait to see what special thing he becomes in life, and what special things he does along the way."