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Leader touts MSA investment value

Mississippi School of the Arts Executive Director Suzanne Hirschsaid she and school supporters are pursuing efforts to improve theschool and ensure its continued existence for the benefit ofstudents and the state.

“I feel like we’ve made progress, but we have a long way to go,”Hirsch said Wednesday while speaking to the Brookhaven KiwanisClub.

After successfully defending another legislative attempt thisyear to relocate MSA from Brookhaven to Columbus and join it withthe Mississippi School for Math and Science, Hirsch said effortsare being made to get more lawmakers to visit the campus. She saidthat would give them more insight before making decisions on thefuture of the school.

Hirsch also discussed a number of projects under way on thecampus.

An Enochs Hall renovation will give the school a strong spacefor theatre, dance and other productions. Hirsch said requests forconstruction proposals should go out by the end of the month, withwork starting by the summer.

“We’ve very excited about that,” Hirsch said.

The school has also secured a grant for the preservation of theformer president’s house, Elizabeth Cottage. Hirsch said theproject would protect and preserve the exterior of the building,which remains structurally sound.

A signage project is its final stages, Hirsch said. She saidwork will see markers placed in front of all the historic buildingson campus.

“I think that will be a source of pride for Brookhaven,” Hirschsaid. “It will provide a great feel for the historic significanceof the campus.”

In student matters, Hirsch said there have been five graduatingclasses in the school’s seven-year history. Of the graduates,Hirsch said about 70 percent have stayed in the state to attendcollege.

With 87 expected in the fall, Hirsch said MSA is anticipatingits largest incoming class of juniors. Of those, 10 are from theLincoln County area.

Also, Hirsch read a lengthy list of MSA student accomplishmentsin arts and academics. In addition, she said students are involvedby performing community service hours in a variety of areas.

She pointed out that the renovations projects are not requiringany new state money and that the state has invested $25 million inthe campus so far. Those facts and the students’ success illustratethe value of the school.

“You can see why the school is such a valuable investment,”Hirsch said.