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MSA students on campus; community help praised

The excitement of new opportunities mixed with the sadness ofseparation Sunday as Mississippi School of the Arts students movedinto the Student Life Center.

“Do I start crying here or wait,” said Laura Whetstone, ofWoodville, as she and her daughter Kayla arrived at the check-intable Sunday afternoon.

Whetstone’s daughter, who will study vocal music, is one of 63MSA students who will be living in the dormitory. Five MSA studentswill commute to classes, which start Wednesday.

After getting Kayla settled into her room in a few hours, Mrs.Whetstone had survived the move-in experience with no tears.

“I’m trying not to. I’ll wait until I get in the car,” shesaid.

Students and parents began arriving at 10 a.m. Sunday.

After spending Saturday night in Brookhaven, T.J. Payne and herparents, Dean and Lorna of Ocean Springs, were the first in line.Dean Payne was proud his daughter, whose discipline will be visualarts, will be a part of the first class.

“It’s a tremendous opportunity for the kids,” Dean Payne said.”I think it’s very forward-looking for the state to have a schoollike this.”

Payne said the state’s math and science school had been openmany years, and he was glad to see the arts school for the state’sartistically-gifted students.

“There’s a lot of kids and a lot of interest in it now,” Paynesaid.

As for any anxiety about leaving his daughter, Payne was takingthe move in stride.

He said the family met T.J.’s roommate. Jessica Sprenkle ofOlive Branch, Saturday. Also, as a former member of the Navy, themilitary family is familiar with moving and being apart.

“We’re kind of used to the family separation thing,” Paynesaid.

Some families, especially those from the coast, saw familiarfaces when they arrived Sunday.

Monty Tussey, whose daughter Megan will study visual arts, saidcoast parents got together Friday. The families met during a campustour in April, exchanged telephone numbers and met Friday todiscuss car pooling for students when they can return home onweekends.

Megan Tussey was looking forward to moving in and startingclasses.

“I’m nervous but excited at the same time,” Megan said.

The Tusseys and other MSA parents met their Brookhaven hostfamilies while moving in Sunday. Owen and Sue Junkin, Megan’s hostfamily, said they were glad to meet Megan, but had not made anyplans for interacting with her yet.

“We’re going to go with the flow,” Owen Junkin said. “We’regoing to meet and see to whatever she needs.”

As she, mother Rebecca and friends moved items into the dorm,Carolyn Hardin of Waveland described the experience as”surreal.”

“It’s a little scary, but I think it’ll be fun and exciting,”said Hardin, who will study theater.

Rebecca Hardin was pleased to meet the MSA staff, host familiesand volunteers. She indicated the warm reception providedreassurances about leaving her daughter at the school.

“It really eases all the fears,” Hardin said. “The people havebeen wonderful.”

Jim Suber, whose stepdaughter, Katie Drummonds, is a student,also commented on how well-organized Sunday’s activities were.

“They’ve done a fine job,” Suber said. “Somebody really put somethought into this and it shows.”

The Student Life Center’s elevator got a thorough test Sunday asstudents and parents carried mini-refrigerators, computers andother items up to rooms.

“I’m so excited. It’s going to be a great adventure,” saidJessica Barnthouse, a vocal music student from Brandon, as she andfamily members waited for the elevator to arrive.

Local businesses likely received a boost Sunday as parents ranto get last-minute items for their children.

“We’re starting the list of everything we forgot,” said SusanDubaz as she and husband Dan, from Ocean Springs, helped their sonMatt Hecker get settled.

While some families came from as far away as Tupelo andSouthaven, others did not have a long journey. Cody Bradford is oneBrookhaven student who will be living in the dorm.

“I wanted to come up here and meet new people and experience newthings,” said Bradford, a visual arts student.

Bradford said living in the dorm would also help him prepare forwhen he goes to college.

“He’s going to be Brookhaven’s greatest artist one day,” saidhis mother, Tammy Bradford, as she helped fill out paperwork at theschool.

MSA staff are also ready to accommodate students.

David Smith, director of Student Life, said students must be oncampus and their rooms by 10:30 p.m. on week nights and midnight onweekends. That applies to students who are checked out of school byparents, host families and other approved individuals.

Smith said student study sessions will be nightly from 8:30 to10 o’clock.

Students will be allowed to walk within a certain distance ofcampus. However, in those instances, Smith said students must beback on campus by dark.

“They can’t walk around downtown until midnight,” Smithsaid.

Off-duty Brookhaven police officers, who will serve as schoolsecurity, patrolled the grounds Sunday. MSA officials alsomonitored move-in activity from the security office on the secondfloor.

Richard Caraway, who oversees school buildings and grounds, saidthere were some areas of campus he wanted to cover better withcamera surveillance.

There are now 41 cameras on campus. Caraway said plans are toadd 60 cameras, approximately 30 of which will go in the StudentLife Center.

“I want to be able to see any part of the campus and any part ofany building at any time,” Caraway said.

Cutline: Nancy (left), Andrew and Andy Montgomery, fromGreenwood, make Andrew’s dorm bed during move-in activities Sundayat the Student Life Center. Students will have orientation Mondayand Tuesday and will start classes Wednesday.