Clubs offer fee help for MSA students

Published 5:00 am Monday, March 23, 2009

Since the Mississippi School of the Arts was created and placedin Brookhaven, locals have taken great pride in the opportunity itoffers to students whose talents aren’t so celebrated at schoolswith traditional curriculums.

But starting this school year, state lawmakers instituted a $500per semester room and board fee. That has made going away to schoola little more of an obstacle for some aspiring artists whosefamilies may not have that kind of pocket change – especially withthe economy taking a nose dive like it has recently.

“The economy in general has slowed down, and our students arenot immune to feeling the effect,” said MSA Principal JanaPerry.

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But civic organizations in Brookhaven are taking notice, withthe Lions Club and the Kiwanis Club both chipping in to make surethere is help for worthy students who may not be able to just pull$1,000 a year out of thin air.

“It changes student lives, it allows students to be able to goon and do what they want to do in their lives,” Perry said.”Without being exposed to the arts here and being able to go onthrough college, a lot of them wouldn’t be able to afford it. Thisopens opportunities.”

Kiwanis Club Treasurer Brad Boerner said the club sponsorsseveral scholarships for students going to college, but recentlythe club decided that the need at MSA was worth addressing too.

“Kiwanis typically does three or four scholarships forcollege-bound kids from our fundraisers,” Boerner said. “With thestate’s new requirement for $1,000 a year for MSA students, wethought it was appropriate to make at least one of those an MSAscholarship.”

Noon Lions Club President Korey White said his club saw the sameneed, especially with the wide-scale exposure the school brings tothe Brookhaven area.

“They’re such a big part of the community, and part of ourmission is to support the community, as well as its young people,”White said. “A lot of people and families get exposed to Brookhaventhrough MSA, which leads to more interest and recognition of thetown. Hopefully that leads to some new residents down the line atsome point.”

Perry said the money is already helping students who, forvarious reasons, might not be able to stay at MSA if they hadn’tbeen recipients of the scholarships.

“One of the donations has gone to a family that has lost a joband had their income greatly decreased,” Perry said. “I know thatstudent wouldn’t be able to stay with us if not for thescholarship.”

And members of both service organizations realize that givingthe money to MSA scholarships doesn’t just help students, but has abig impact statewide.

“We’re supporting children all over Mississippi, which is ourprimary goal, and also supporting Brookhaven at the same time,”Boerner said. “It’s always wonderful to be able to do that.”

For that reason, MSA supporters are encouraging otherorganizations locally to get involved, but also statewide. Studentscome to MSA from every town in Mississippi, MSA officials said, andhometown scholarships can mean everything to a student who mightwant to go but not have the means.

“There are so many kids that represent so many towns inMississippi that by supporting the school, we’re actuallysupporting towns and communities all over the state,” Whitesaid.

Perry said that support makes the difference to a student whomay be an outsider at their hometown school, but could flourish andgrow in their talents at MSA.

“We’ve had a student mow grass all summer to be able to gohere,” she said.