Rigorous course pursuit goal of scholar program

Published 6:00 am Friday, January 16, 2009

The Mississippi Scholars Program roundup has kicked off again inLincoln County, with business leaders prepped and primed to telllocal students just how much an education can further theirfuture.

Mississippi Economic Council Foundation Programs Vice PresidentVickie Powell said presenters, who gathered for training at theBrookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce Thursday, would playa vital role in showing all students from eighth to 11th grade howthe Mississippi Scholars Program can help them be more successfulwhen they reach the real world.

“This program is geared toward the middle students, the onesthat can do well but choose not to,” she said. “You don’t have tobe a straight-A student to be a part of the program.”

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Powell said she and local Mississippi Scholars Chairman KennyGoza took a trip during the spring to an academic rigor conference,where the governing bodies of the state scholars programsemphasized the importance of teaching students how their educationapplies to their future.

“We talked about rigor and relevance, and how what you learnconnects to the real world,” she said. “There were representativesfrom each state and we talked about the challenges we each facewith our programs.”

Goza said in his experience with the Mississippi Scholarsprogram he has seen speakers talk a lot about the importance of theadvanced classes, but there was a piece missing.

“My perspective as a presenter is that we have the challenge togo in and put the emphasis on the relevance so the kids realize theimportance of the rigor,” he said. “To me it seems like if astudent understands the importance to his future, maybe he’ll bemore inspired to work harder.”

And with the economy like it is, education is becoming moreimportant every day, Goza said.

“Today it’s harder to get a job and it’s not getting anybetter,” he said. “It’s not like there are just jobs sitting on theshelf waiting for you to graduate. It’s good for them to hear thisfrom us, as business leaders in the community.”

But with the program up and running for three years inBrookhaven and Lincoln County, officials cite outstanding success.Powell said she credits the involvement of community businessleaders as the reason numbers of Mississippi Scholars graduates andthe amount of scholarship money have increased every year.

“I use you all as a model for other districts to show them thatpooling community support can drive change in a local schooldistrict,” she said about the local program. “You’re trulytrailblazers in this program. There’s not another district withthis kind of support.”

Area schools had 163 Mississippi Scholars graduates and morethan $37,000 in scholarships was awarded in 2008.