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Prospective students get look at new arts school

Tenth graders and their parents traveled from all across thestate Saturday to learn about the new Mississippi School of theArts.

“We’re real pleased with the response. This is quite a goodturnout,” said Jennifer Jackson, director of public relations forMississippi School of the Arts (MSA).

About 100 visitors attended the open house, listing suchhometowns as Greenwood, Greenville, Pass Christian, Southaven,Gulfport and Waveland.

The second open house offered by the tuition-free residentialschool of the arts also brought plenty of curious students fromsouthwest and central Mississippi, including Brookhaven, BogueChitto, Crystal Springs, Brandon, Clinton, Madison and Jackson.

“I just wanted to come and check it out to see what it’s allabout,” said Mitchell Leon, who attends Bogue Chitto AttendanceCenter and is considering a visual arts major.

Parents and students expressed their approval of the school toseveral MSA staff members on hand to answer questions and givetours of Brookhaven.

“I love it all. I would move in right now if it was ready,” saidKayla Whetstone, an excited, prospective voice student fromWoodville.

She and her mother, Laura, have visited a number of arts schoolsacross the country. MSA got a thumbs up from both of them aftertheir research about the opportunities offered at MSA and inBrookhaven.

“I really like the host family system through the churches,”said Mrs. Whetstone. “That makes me feel better about her beingaway from home.”

The host family network will allow Brookhaven families to adoptMSA students and their families. They will participate infamily-like activities together, such as eating out and celebratingbirthdays and other special occasions, while the student is awayfrom home.

Parents were also comforted when they learned that security willpatrol the fenced-in campus 24 hours a day and surveillance cameraswill be in heavy supply inside buildings and around campus.

They also liked hearing that an adult resident counselor willlive on each floor of the eight-story residential life center,which will provide housing, food, fitness and entertainment forstudents.

“We will treat your kids like our own,” said Dr. VickiBodenhamer, executive director of MSA, to the group gathered inLampton Auditorium.

The group was also told that commuting students would have tosign in and out every day, while residential students would only beallowed to leave campus on school trips. Students will be requiredto stay on campus most weekends for school activities. Theirparents, or someone authorized by their parents, will be the onlyones able to pick them up otherwise.

Students will be taken to Brookhaven High School via buses eachday for academic classes in math and science.

An estimated 100 students are expected to start theater, visualarts and vocal music classes in August, with a maximum of 60residential students and between 30 and 40 commuter students fromsouthwest Mississippi. Those numbers are expected to double nextyear with the completion of a second eight-story dormitory adjacentto the residential life center.

Some of the more than 30 tenth graders attending the open houseexpressed satisfaction in the rules set aside by the school. Manywere excited about the numerous benefits they would receive if theyattend MSA their junior and senior years.

“I think the school’s really going to achieve. Even if I don’tmake it, it will be nice,” said Brandon Terry, who traveled withhis mother, stepfather and sister from Lucedale to learn how theschool could assist in his efforts to become an architect.

The George County High School student already has hisapplication filled out and plans to send it in soon, well beforethe 3 p.m., Feb. 14, deadline.

Other application requirements include a 2.0 grade pointaverage, academic transcripts, recommendations, portfolio,interview and written assessment. Students will be notified oftheir acceptance in May.

Approximately 5,000 applications have been sent to high schoolsaround the state, and more than 250 people have called MSA torequest applications.