Chamber of Commerce Miss. Scholars

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, June 6, 2007

Mississippi Scholars organizers knew they were on the righttrack when their efforts garnered over $16,000 of scholarship moneyfor local graduating seniors.

They were glad to have that knowledge verified Tuesday wheneducational officials from Winona came to Brookhaven to find outexactly what their secret was. Mississippi Scholars officials inJackson have put Brookhaven’s program up for the rest of the stateas a model of a community that does it right.

“From the state level, it would be that Brookhaven is one of ourleading areas as far as making a contribution to the initiative forthese students and awarding their achievements,” said VickiePowell, program manager and state director.

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City officials are thrilled at the recognition.

“This was an honor for our community, especially from aneducational standpoint,” said Chamber of Commerce Executive VicePresident Cliff Brumfield.

Kenny Goza, the local chairman and one of the spearheads of theMississippi Scholars Program in Brookhaven, said that whenorganizers were working on relationships with local businesses torecruit program presenters and raise scholarship funds, he neverthought it would be such an outstanding turnout.

“We were very honored and humbled that these people from Winonawould want to sit down with us to talk over the success of thisprogram in our community,” he said. “But we did it completely onrelationships, face to face.”

Brumfield and Goza joined Kay Burton of the Chamber of Commerce,Brookhaven School Superintendent Lea Barrett, Bogue Chitto HighSchool Principal Bill McGeehee, and the officials from Winona in around table type discussion of the program’s strengths andweaknesses as the city had encountered them.

Last year was the pilot year for the program and was consideredextremely successful. This year has far exceeded the expectationsof state officials as well as local leaders.

“Well, you consider we’ve had this program less than 18 months,”said Brumfield. “Eighteen months ago, nobody even knew what itwas.”

Goza said the success of the program depended not only onrelationships in the community, but on picking out the right peopleto work together on the program in the beginning.

“When we started this, our steering committee was prettystrategic,” he said. “We made it up of people that were passionateabout education, and after a while we encouraged them to bring intwo friends, and it grows from there.”

Brumfield said community involvement in a program likeMississippi Scholars bodes well for the future of the community asa whole.

“This shows we are deeply interested in the future of our youthand the future leadership of our community,” he said. “It’s ahealthy sign of having the academic requirements to provideadequate resources to support continuing education and workforcedevelopment.”