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200-plus students honored as Miss. Scholars

Taylr Hall is headed to Oxford.

After graduating from Brookhaven High School this May, the17-year-old will check out of Brookhaven and enroll at theUniversity of Mississippi with a $2,000 scholarship she picked upMonday night at the Mississippi Scholars Banquet, her reward forparticipating in the advanced academic courses the programrequires.

Hall said the spare two grand would help her financially as shetakes on biology and Spanish courses in the pursuit of a degree inInternational Medicine at Ole Miss.

“It will be a good help to my parents,” she said. “(MississippiScholars) pays off in the end.”

Hall was one of 60 seniors from across Lincoln County whodivided up more than $92,000 in scholarship funds at Monday night’sbanquet. The total number of scholarships and money raised for theprogram this year represent a breakthrough Mississippi Scholarscoordinators never imagined, said scholarship committee chairmanKenny Goza.

“I never dreamed four years ago we’d get to this level,” he saidafter the ceremony – an almost 500-member affair that was thelargest banquet ever held in Lincoln County – concluded. “To hearthe comments from the educators, parents and students on the impactthe program has made … is very impressive.”

The Mississippi Scholars Program, which encourages high schoolstudents to take on more advanced classes to prepare for college,began in 2006 with 26 participants and only $8,000 in scholarshipfunds.

Now, only three years later, the number of students involved -202 – has increased almost eightfold. And with colleges throwingtheir financial support into the program alongside businesses andprivate donors, the amount of available scholarship funding is morethan 11 times what it was in 2006.

But Mississippi Scholars organizers want more, Goza said.

“We’ve got a few ideas we’re going to toss around,” he said. “Wewant more money for scholarships.”

Goza said he and other program officials are considering makinga presentation to the state government in an attempt to get anappropriation to the program, a move which could double the alreadyimpressive amount of scholarship funding.

“Why not?” Goza said. “It goes to help the students, and thathelps the state.”

Powerful witnesses would back such a presentation. Eight majorcolleges in the state, both community colleges near Lincoln Countyand a host of private businesses and institutions supportMississippi Scholars.

“The scholars program is something we want to be a part of,”said Max Miller, associate director of enrollment services for OleMiss. “It’s a great way to recognize students who make a commitmentearly in their academic career about the value of education andservice in their community.”

Miller said the program doesn’t just produce grade-makers, butwell-rounded students and overall “good citizens.”

Ole Miss, now in its second year of financial support ofMississippi Scholars, added four Lincoln County seniors to itsstudent population Monday. The university enrolled four from theprogram last year as well, he said.

“When you look at students who come their freshman year, oftenthose who don’t get involved don’t stay,” Miller said. “Thesestudents have the initiative to go out on campus, get involved andmake a difference.”