Scholars program aids community

Published 5:00 am Monday, May 4, 2009

I struck up a conversation with a young fellow while waiting inthe dinner line Monday evening for the Mississippi Scholars awardspresentation and banquet. He was bursting with pride but a bitreserved and nervous. He told me of his plans followinggraduation.

With interest in journalism but leaning toward a religion major,he told me of his quandary for the future. He plans to attendcommunity college and then on to a four-year school. His voicetrailed as he spoke of four-year school for he was unsure how hecould ever afford the tuition.

Four years ago, the Brookhaven-Lincoln County MississippiScholars program kicked off with a small dinner for 26 students andtheir parents. This past Monday night, almost 500 students andparents were seated – 202 of them honored as scholar graduates with60 sharing in $92,000 in scholarships!

Never in the widest dreams four years ago did the steeringcommittee think the local program would grow to such a size in sucha short time.

While other communities across the state also participate in theprogram sponsored by the Mississippi Economic Council, only inBrookhaven are scholarships awarded! In fact the folks at the MECtell me that Brookhaven’s program is a national leader in the 24states that have adopted the national program.

Later in the evening I stood with a group of students waitingtheir turn to walk across the stage to receive their medallions.You could feel the electricity in the hallway.

Each had taken extra attention on their attire for the evening,as the night was so special to them. One spoke of how nervous shewas to be walking in front of so many people. Others just wiggledin excitement.

Cheers filled the hall as each group gathered at the end of thestage having received their certificates of achievement andmedallions. Looking out into the audience a few tears were evidentas parents watched in pride.

Each of these 202 students had taken on a commitment a few yearsearlier to take specific courses that challenged them to work alittle harder and reach a little higher. These students could havetaken an easier path but they chose the tougher road.

Four years ago community volunteers began making presentationsto schools. This past year more than 50 volunteers madepresentations to 1,800 students – telling them about the program,its benefits and how their extra efforts now can pay off in thefuture.

As those efforts pay off for these and future seniors, so toowill it pay off for our community. The scholars program is aninvestment in our future. Hopes are that that some of these kidswill return one day to become our future leaders.

With so much negative news pouring out these days, Monday nightwas a bright spot for it showed what can be accomplished when allwork for a common goal. While other communities can worry abouttheir current problems, ours is looking beyond and makingpreparations for the future.

The final portion of the banquet involved the presentation ofscholarships to a select group of students. Midway through thepresentation I heard the name of my food line friend! His was tothe four-year school he discussed with me.

Sometimes a nudge is all one needs.

Write to Bill Jacobs at P.O. Box 551, Brookhaven MS 39602, orsend e-mail to bjacobs@dailyleader.com.