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Support for Miss. Scholars program grows

The Mississippi Scholars Program is on track to raise more moneythan ever before in Brookhaven, which is in part due to theparticipation of local businesses and colleges.

So far the program has raised $19,500 toward scholarships forlocal Mississippi Scholars, in comparison with last year’s $16,000.Program organizers say they’re still going strong.

Mississippi Scholars Chairman Kenny Goza said the program hasdefinitely seen growing interest every year, and that it seemspeople are seeing the success firsthand.

“I think with the involvement between the business community andthe schools, and seeing some positive results through our students,people are just buying in,” he said.

Goza said the Brookhaven-Lincoln County community still leadsthe state in participation and donations.

“Blake Wilson, the director of the Mississippi Economic Council,said it appears that our community is very cutting edge andcreative on how we have developed the program, and at this pointwe’re the poster child for Mississippi Scholars,” he said. “Plus,we’ve found through talking to counselors and administrators thatscholarships are one of the best things we can use as an incentiveversus token gifts or something. The best thing we can do toencourage students to participate is to help them as they continuetheir education.”

Copiah-Lincoln Community College has so far been the top donor,with a donation of $5,000. College President Howell Garner said thechoice to support the program was clear-cut for him.

“This program recognizes students that are outstanding and whoare going to college, and we love getting those students,” he said.”We’re always excited about getting the cream of the crop here atCo-Lin.”

Garner said based on what he has seen, Mississippi Scholarscontinue to excel as scholars and people once they reach thecollege campus.

“I can’t say individually, but I know they’ve done welloverall,” he said. “I can tell you from experience that we’ve foundthose students coming to us with excellent high school backgrounds,recommended by their high schools and the Mississippi Scholarsprogram, and they perform at an outstanding rate here atCo-Lin.”

Southwest Community College’s Dr. Oliver Young said theMississippi Scholars Program is unquestionably extremely valuablefor students’ futures, which is one reason Southwest donated $3,000to the program.

“Any time you have a program that encourages young people toexcel academically, you’re strengthening the entire educationalpool,” he said. “Nobody should question the value of thatprogram.”

Young said he has been impressed with the way Lincoln County andBrookhaven have rallied behind Mississippi Scholars, throughsupport, participation and donations.

“That’s a very important program and I wish we had it in ourarea, because we don’t have it in Pike County right now,” he said.”I see all kinds of benefits for having the Mississippi Scholarsprogram. Just look at the results of the efforts the citizens ofBrookhaven and Lincoln County have invested in the program and thenumber of young people that have received scholarships.”

The University of Mississippi has donated $2,000 to the programin Lincoln County and Brookhaven, making it the first and so farthe only four-year university in the state that has responded tothe tidal wave that is the local scholars program.

Associate Dean of Admissions Max Miller said Ole Miss officialsthink the program gives students a great incentive not only to goto college, but to stay there.

“I think it’s simple, it’s more important than ever thatstudents have the opportunity to go to college, both from thestandpoint of being academically prepared, but also in beingencouraged and challenged like your program does,” he said. “Wewanted to offer some incentive, modest as it is, to make surestudents succeed.”

Miller said the $2,000 donated by the college goes to fourfour-year scholarships, and that officials are working on the termsnow.

Brookhaven High School Principal Susan Chapman said her personaldonation of $500 is based on the fact that she has seen studentsexcel under the program. She issued a challenge to all the otherprincipals in the area to do the same.

“I don’t give them a $500 check, instead I give them money everymonth so it builds up to $500,” she said. “The way I look at it isthat if I didn’t have these children, I’d be unemployed. We have alot of good kids who might not be straight-A students, but they’rewilling to take these harder courses and should be rewarded forit.”

Linda Covington, of Brookhaven Honda, said part of the reasonshe finds the program important enough to support it with a $2,500donation is that she did not graduate from college, and she knowseducation’s importance in the world.

“Mississippi Scholars is one of my favorite programs in thechamber, and it’s something I truly believe in,” she said. “It’salways been so hard for me, and the opportunity to give back to thechildren and show them what they can do with a college education isgreat. This is just one of the greatest programs that Brookhavenhas to offer and I want to see it go everywhere in the state.”

And new businesses are buying in as well, as local toy storeJust Kiddin’ has donated $500 to the cause.

“We participate in order to encourage the continuing ofeducation in our young Mississippians and show the importance ofsuch in their future,” said Just Kiddin’ President ChristyFleming.

Goza said donations are still being accepted through theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce. Those interested indonating may call (601)833-1411.