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Student Life Center wins rave reviews

The Student Life Center won rave reviews from excited studentsand proud parents who got a glimpse of the under-constructionfacility during a visit to the Mississippi School of the Artscampus Sunday.

“It’s awesome. It’s perfect,” said Katie Drummonds of Clinton asshe inspected one of the dorm rooms.

Drummonds, a visual arts student, was among a large group ofstudents and parents to attend Sunday’s open house to help themdecide whether to accept MSA’s invitation to be part of the firstclass of students. Students have until May 2 to submit theiracceptance letters, and the school will open its doors inAugust.

From students’ and parents’ reactions, the Student Life Centerwas definitely a selling point. The facility is expected to becompleted within the next few weeks.

“I wasn’t expecting such a contemporary look,” Drummonds said.”It’s really neat.”

Drummonds’ mother, Andy Suber, said she was excited andimpressed. She also admitted to another emotion.

“I’m jealous. I wish I was coming to school here,” Suber said.”I wish they had this 30 years ago.”

Orry Sanders of Columbia and Zach Craft of Mendenhall were alsoimpressed as they looked at rooms and took the stairs to floorsthat were accessible Sunday.

“I think it’s awesome. It really makes you feel at home,” saidSanders, who plans to study visual arts.

Chelsea Digby, a vocal talent student from Hernando, said shelooked at Alabama’s fine arts school.

“I like this one a lot better,” Digby said of MSA.

Digby’s mother, Jennifer, said her daughter could attend theAlabama school as a private student. However, Mrs. Digby was alsofavoring MSA.

“The staff here is really friendly, tremendously more helpful,”Mrs. Digby said.

Mrs. Digby said their family had been watching MSA develop fromthe time Executive Director Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer was the school’sonly employee. She was glad to see the school finally becoming areality.

“Children gifted in the arts, no matter what their talent is,need a place like this,” Mrs. Digby said.

Students and parents also toured the renovated and expandedBrookhaven High School, where students will take math, science andforeign language classes. Social studies, English and arts-relatedclasses will be taught on the MSA campus.

BHS Principal Susan Chapman said her school’s officials areworking with MSA staff on arranging class schedules. Initial plansare to have MSA students at BHS during the first two class blocksand then return to the MSA campus for other classes.

While arts school students will be classified as MSA students,Chapman said there would be no distinction between MSA and BHSstudents while they are on campus.

“We’re going to have one student body here,” Chapman said.

Throughout the MSA and BHS tours, Prentiss student TanoaWeddington kept a cam corder to her eye to capture informationabout the facilities. Weddington is looking to study vocal arts atMSA.

“It’s a great thing for me,” Weddington said. “I think I willenjoy it. I think it will be challenging.”

At Weddington’s side was her mother, Dovie Williams.

Williams said she was reluctant when her daughter wanted toattend MSA. However, after seeing Brookhaven High School’sfacilities and hearing about its academic offerings, Williams saidattending BHS would be a “great opportunity” for Weddington.

“I knew it was an outstanding school and she would bewell-educated,” Williams said.

Parents, many of whom likely concerned about sending theirchildren away, quizzed school officials about security, classscheduling, community involvement and other aspects of MSA life andliving in Brookhaven. Parents indicated a generally positiveresponse to answers they received.

Will Hardy, whose daughter Ashley was accepted as a visual artsstudents, said he was impressed with BHS’ cleanliness and scienceclass equipment. He also liked the fact that Brookhaven officialsdecided to renovate and expand its current building rather thangoing elsewhere to build a new one.

The Columbus man said another of his children had graduated fromthe Mississippi School of Math and Sciences. Hardy also commentedabout the support MSA has received in Brookhaven and said thecommunity looks to be 100 percent behind the school.

“That makes me feel good. I get a good feeling about that,”Hardy said.

Back at Lampton Auditorium, Bodenhamer and staff fielded morequestions about MSA plans. Following the director’s presentation,students and parents picked up registration and other necessarydocuments to accept the MSA invitation.

Jackie and Bill Wilson said they had agreed earlier to allowtheir son Zac to attend MSA if he was accepted. Zac Wilson plans tostudy vocal arts in the upcoming school year.

Jackie Wilson said she was excited about the opportunity Zacwill receive and said Sunday’s open house was very informative. Sheespecially liked school officials’ assurances about security andstudent supervision.

“We’re really encouraged by that,” she said. “I don’t thinkstudents are going to be doing things they’re not supposed to bedoing.”