Network seeks host homes for students

Published 5:00 am Monday, April 12, 2004

Mississippi School of the Arts supporters are looking for somegood families for some good students.

The MSA Host Family Network, part of the Parent CommunityCouncil, is seeking local families to serve as host families forstudents at the arts school next year. Through periodic visits andother activities, host families help provide “a home away fromhome” for students at the residential arts school.

Most of the current year’s class of juniors signed up to have alocal host family, said Richard Baker, network chairman. More hostfamilies, though, will be needed next year as the school has juniorand senior classes.

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“We’re shooting for, realistically, 100 (host families),” Bakersaid.

The need, though, could be more depending on enrollment.

MSA Executive Director Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer said next year’senrollment could be as many as 140 students, depending on how manyare accepted through the application process. Based on thepercentage of students with host families this year, that wouldmean approximately 120 families would be needed in 2004-05.

Baker was hopeful that host families with MSA students this yearwill stay on as host families next year. Dr. Dianne Watson, networkmember, said more students will require more families.

“We’re not trying to swap,” Watson said. “We have a whole newclass of students coming in.”

Network members will be distributing host family applications atchurches, the MSA Student Life Center and other locations aroundtown. There is a $25 host family application fee, which covers thecost of a background check.

Network member Patti Perkins said some host families take theirstudents to church, sporting events or other activities. She saidthe program has been good for everyone involved.

“The children and their parents have really embraced thisprogram, and it is a way to showcase the positive side ofBrookhaven,” Perkins said. “It has been reassuring to the parentssending their young ones to a boarding school to have theirstudents connect with a family.”

Another Host Family Network activity is preparation of “goodybags” for new arriving students in August.

Perkins said she will soon start contacting area merchants fordonations for the welcome gifts. Last year, the “goody bags”contained a variety of items, like coupons for food products atlocal restaurants to discounts at other businesses.

“The response was overwhelming,” Perkins said. “We reallyappreciated the merchants doing that.”

David Smith, MSA director of student services, said the hostfamily program has received a “wonderful response” from students.He said some students want and need more involvement with a hostfamily.

“The key is pairing up those with the greatest need with hostfamilies that can meet that need,” Smith said. “I can’t praise thiscommittee enough for giving up their time to get this done.”