Scholars program strong evidence of community support

Published 6:00 am Monday, February 9, 2009

Two opinion page writers this past week took up the issue offunding’s impact on the quality of education provided toMississippi school children.

In his weekly column, Vicksburg Post Managing Editor CharlieMitchell took the position that funding alone does not guaranteeachievement. He said successful communities are those where parentsand leaders refuse to settle for less in their schools and supportthem in every way possible.

In response, Anne Foster, the national executive director ofParents for Public Schools, placed more emphasis on the role offunding in education but agreed that both money and communitysupport are crucial in producing successful students, schools andcommunities.

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Brookhaven and Lincoln County represent a shining example of therole community support plays in producing quality schools andstudents.

At the top of the evidence list is the local MississippiScholars program. The program encourages students to pursue a morerigorous course curriculum so that they are better prepared forcollege or the world of work beyond after their high schoolgraduation.

Last week, local business leaders and others began making theirpresentations on the program to students in grades eight through11. This year more than 40 people have signed up to make classroompresentations, which will go through March.

Kay Burton, a Mississippi Scholars organizer for the chamber ofcommerce, said presenters’ enthusiasm continues to be key inencouraging students to participate and in fostering a successfullocal program.

“I think the people that go in the schools love it and it shows,and the kids enjoy seeing the presentations and learning how itapplies to their lives,” she said.

Life applications include the possibility of better-paying jobsand successful careers when students become adults. Thepresentations feature earnings potential comparisons between highschool dropouts and students to complete high school and go on tocollege.

A vital aspect of the local program’s success has been thesupport of businesses that contribute money to provide incentivesin the form of college scholarships for selected students.

Contributions have steadily increased over the years, with stateuniversities and colleges taking on a larger supporting role morerecently. Last year, 163 local students graduated as MississippiScholars and more than $37,000 in scholarships was awarded.

Numbers like those have established the Brookhaven-LincolnCounty Mississippi Scholars program as a role model for the state.Local leaders have traveled around Mississippi and to other partsof the country to share the secret of the program’s success.

As Mitchell and Foster were saying about education in general,the local Mississippi Scholars program’s success in particular isdue to community citizens who refuse to settle for less. Theycontinue to demonstrate their willingness to support our studentsand schools with their time, money and other talents.