Volunteers help paint perfect day

Published 5:00 am Monday, August 4, 2003

Area volunteers made a strong showing Sunday to welcome studentsand parents to the Mississippi School of the Arts.

Students moving into the Student Life Center on campus wereexcited, and their excitement was matched by the volunteers, whowelcomed the students, helped them sign in, and assisted them withmoving into their dormitory rooms.

More than 60 youths from area churches came to help the studentsand parents with the physical aspects of moving. Adult volunteersmet with them to talk about Brookhaven and meet any specialneeds.

“Our youth from the churches have been out front waiting for thekids and helping them move in,” said Danny Forrest, director of theschool’s church activities committee and student administrator atMt. Zion Baptist Church.

Chad Moore, a student intern at First Baptist Church, estimatedhe had helped about 25 students move into the eight-storydormitory. Most of the others in the group had helped just asmany.

“I know I’ve helped with at least 12 refrigerators,” he said.”They’re very thankful. It’s been really helpful to them.”

Brennan Breeland, an artist and musician from Brookhaven, achurch volunteer, admitted he had an ulterior motive.

“I just wanted to meet some people from the arts school,” hesaid. “I would have applied, but I’m a senior this year, so Imissed it by one year.”

Breeland thinks it helps the incoming students to have somevolunteers their own age.

“They seem to be excited to be here and are inquiring about thearea and things to do,” he said.

Forrest said spirituality has been a vital question among thestudents.

“We’ve just been giving out information about our churches,” hesaid. “We want the students to be involved. They’ve been realreceptive. It’s been a good day.”

Forrest said he would have to coordinate with Host FamilyNetwork Director Richard Baker to ensure some of their requests aremet.

“A lot have asked their host families to take them to church,”he said.

Baker said the response from the parents made it allworthwhile.

“We’ve had some parents, who had students at the math andscience school, say the difference between here and there onopening day has been like night and day,” he said. “The communitysupport here has been the difference. The support of the communityhere has been overwhelming.”

That overwhelming response has convinced some students torethink their decisions.

The school, which will have 68 students this year, had 45 tosign up for host families before Sunday. Five more were added afterthey witnessed the response of the students meeting their hostfamilies for the first time, Baker said.

“They’re very nice people,” said Ednita Street after she met herhost family, Fredrick and Kristy Kees of Brookhaven.

Street, a visual arts student who enjoys acrylic painting, saidthe meeting was brief because of all the activity, but she lookedforward to meeting with them again soon.

The Kees shared her optimism.

“I would like to do a little bit with her on the computer andshow her around Brookhaven,” Kristy Kees said. “We have a goodhistory here, and I’m looking forward to sharing that withher.”

Street’s agenda with her host family includes church programs,shopping “and just spending time with them.”

In addition to host families, more than 75 volunteers camethroughout the day to help and meet students, said JenniferJackson, public relations officer for the school.

Parent Community Council Host Family Network members DianneWatson and Patti Perkins passed out ‘goodie bags’ donated by areabusinesses to the students.

The bags contained various coupons to local establishments andnovelty items.