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Program urges students to pursue harder classes

Volunteers and Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerceofficials Thursday established a steering committee to introducethe Mississippi Scholars education program to the community.

Mississippi Scholars, managed by the Public Education Forum ofMississippi, is a voluntary, community-driven and business-ledprogram to encourage students to complete challenging coursesduring high school that will better prepare them for jobs or highereducation after graduation.

“There are a lot of kids out there who don’t understand the valueof education,” said Kay Burton, representing the chamber. “If theylearn more now, do more now, they will earn more later.”

The chamber will lead local efforts to establish a program here. Atthe organizational meeting Thursday, Burton and volunteer KennyGoza outlined the basics of the program for a small audience ofpotential steering committee candidates.

“We didn’t start getting this steering committee together until weknew all the schools were on board,” Burton said. “We startedworking on this about a year ago.”

In the program, eighth grade students are given a presentationabout the Mississippi Scholars program before they make their classselections for their freshman year at high school. High schoolfreshmen, sophomores and juniors also receive presentations toentice them to join.

There is no fee to becoming a Mississippi Scholar. Entry into theprogram simply requires students to meet a course of study thatincludes classes already taught in the schools.

“I think it’s a worthwhile program,” said Dr. Vicki Bodenhamer,director of the Mississippi School of the Arts. “It’s a win-winthing. There’s no prerequisite so it doesn’t matter if it’s a Dstudent. All students could use the encouragement and it could makeall the difference.”

The program specializes in encouraging students to take the mostchallenging classes a school offers. Statistics have shown thatcolleges, and others who offer scholarships, are more impressedwith a C grade in a challenging course than an A grade in an easycourse.

“The concept of selling a harder course, and possibly a lowergrade, may be difficult for some parents to understand,” said BobbyBell.

Burton and Goza said part of the goal of the Mississippi Scholarsis to encourage more parents to get involved in their child’seducation and to provide them with the information they need tohelp their child make more helpful course choices.

School counselors will also be assisting students participating inthe scholars program to ensure they make the right course changesto remain in the program.

The program will offer incentives to those who complete it, whichmay include scholarships, but it is too early in the organizationalphase to say what those incentives may be, Burton said.

Some students would already qualify for the program, but most wouldnot simply because the scholars program requires physics, economicsand world geography. Those classes are not generally popular amongstudents because of their difficulty.

Burton, Goza, Bell, Bodenhamer and Jennifer Jackson agreed to jointhe steering committee Thursday, but others may join later.