Program offers scooter for scholarships

Published 6:00 am Monday, November 16, 2009

The success of Lincoln County’s Mississippi Scholars program isbeyond contestation, but there’s always been a spot on the resumecoordinators have been unable to wash out.

Now, the cleansing process has begun.

Mississippi Scholars Chairman Kenny Goza said program officialsare seeking new funding sources to make sure that everyparticipating scholar is rewarded with money for college upon theirgraduation. Though all students who participate in MississippiScholars – which encourages students to prepare for college bytaking advanced classes in high school – receive the program’sofficial seal on their transcripts, only a small percentage of thescholars have actually received financial rewards.

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“Our goal is to invest in every student that participates inMississippi Scholars,” Goza said. “We want no student leftuntouched.”

Though 2009 was a banner year for the program, with more than200 high school seniors countywide earning the title of scholar andaround $92,000 in scholarship funds awarded, only 60 of thoseseniors received scholarship money, leaving 70 percent of the groupto seek help with college expenses from other sources.

Goza and other program coordinators are focused on closing thatgap.

Their first step was taken Friday at Brookhaven Honda, wherestoreowner Linda Covington donated a Honda Elite 110 scooter toMississippi Scholars.

Tickets for a chance to win the scooters will be available onthe bike in the coming weeks for a $5 per ticket donation. Allproceeds will go into a fund that will be distributed among thestudent scholars who are not awarded scholarships at the program’sannual banquet this spring.

The scooter will be unveiled and the first tickets availableTuesday night at the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of CommerceBanquet at Copiah-Lincoln Community College at 6:30 p.m. Goza saidprogram officials have not decided how many tickets to print or howlong to hold the sale.

“We may limit ourselves if we set a mark,” he said.

Covington, a three-year contributor to Mississippi Scholars,jumped at the chance to donate the scooter to help more and morestudents get some kind of head start on college.

“I’m not a college graduate, and I realized the hardships I’vehad and what a college education means,” she said. “I firmlybelieve in Mississippi Scholars, and I’d like to see it grow andexpand.”

Mississippi Scholars Fundraising Chairman David Culpepper hopesthe opportunity to win a scooter will spread a sense of ownershipthroughout the community.

“This allows the community to put their fingerprints on this,”he said. “As little a donation as $5, and you’re making animpact.”

Culpepper said the scooter may not bring in enough funds to meetthe program’s goal, “Investing in the Future, One Student at aTime,” this year, but it should provide enough money tosignificantly expand the number of students who receive financialassistance through Mississippi Scholars.

Chamber executive vice president Cliff Brumfield hopes theevolution of Mississippi Scholars will encourage more and more highschool students to participate. Last year’s group of scholarsrepresented more than 40 percent of all graduating seniors in thecounty, and quality of education is a strong point in economicdevelopment.

“The intent is to encourage even more of our area youth to takeadvantage of the advanced programs offered in our local schools,”he said.