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MSA’s seniors look to college, careers in arts

Following two years of specialized studies in theater, visualarts or choral music here, 38 students from across the state arescheduled to make one last trip to Brookhaven on Saturday to bepart of the Mississippi School of the Arts’ first graduatingclass.

Quinta Clark, a visual arts student from Madison, is lookingforward to MSA’s first graduation.

“I think it’s an honor,” Clark said Tuesday from her centralMississippi home. “It makes me proud to have been there.”

The ceremony is 2 p.m. Saturday in Lampton Auditorium.

Clark said living in the dorm and other aspects of MSA lifehelped prepare her for college. Clark plans to attend BelhavenCollege on $15,000 in scholarships and other financial aid,assistance she believes may not have come her way without theexposure she received through MSA.

“I don’t think they would have known that much about me,” saidClark, who was also offered $13,000 in financial aid at MississippiCollege.

While Clark is staying in the state, some of her fellowgraduates are heading elsewhere.

Reed Whitney, a theater studies student from Vicksburg, is goingto New York in August for studies at the Tisch School of the Arts,part of New York University. Whitney said he applied for admissionand was accepted and will receive $9,000 a year in financialaid.

“It’s going to be an absolute great challenge and should be alot of fun,” Whitney said.

Whitney credits the courses he took at MSA with confirming hisacting plans after school.

“It made me realize that is definitely what I want to do as mycareer,” Whitney said.

Whitney said it was inspiring to know that he and his classmatesare part of MSA’s first class of students.

“We were there when it all started,” Whitney said. “We kind ofhelped mold the school into what it is today.”

MSA Executive Director Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer said the arts schoolwill have a 100 percent graduation rate its first year.Twenty-three are graduating with honors, meaning a 90 average orabove.

Of 27 students offered significant assistance in the form ofscholarships or other financial aid, Bodenhamer said 23 aredirectly related to the art form they studied at MSA.

“The majority of the scholarships have some combination withtheir arts discipline as well as their academic achievement,”Bodenhamer said.

Bodenhamer is approaching MSA’s first graduation a littledifferently than students.

“It’s going to be sad,” she said. “We’ll know this class betterthan any other class.”

The reason, she said, is that this year’s seniors were lastyear’s first class of juniors. As such, they had the campus andschool officials’ attention to themselves.

“They got care and attention no other group will ever receive tothat extent,” Bodenhamer said.

The first class were “guinea pigs” as students andadministrators went through good times and rough times in the firstyear. Bodenhamer said the first students made suggestions to helphave smoother journeys for future classes.

“They were pioneers and will go down in history as being in thefirst class of graduates,” Bodenhamer said.

Bodenhamer was optimistic about the students’ future.

“We believe they will be successful. They are very wellprepared,” said Bodenhamer, citing the hours that students put induring their arts courses. “It’s hard work on this campus.”

As graduates make their short journey from the Student LifeCenter to Lampton Auditorium on Saturday, they will each toll thebell in the center of the campus. The bell, which was restored andreplaced during the school’s first year, is a holdover from thedays the campus was home to Whitworth College.

“It’s a way of blending the past with the present,” Bodenhamersaid.

Also during Saturday’s graduation will be the first performanceof MSA’s alma mater. Bodenhamer said the graduation ceremony is aticketed event and seating is limited.