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AJHS students sign up for Scholars plan

His daughter may have the certificate, but he’s got thepride.

When seventh-grader Kaitlin Moore walked across the stage atAlexander Junior High School Tuesday night to receive hercertificate and officially join the Rising Scholars program,Winston Moore was beaming.

“It’s a proud situation to have a daughter that is excelling intoday’s society,” the father said. “It’s a hard thing to do,especially today.”

Kaitlin was one of 74 seventh- and eighth-graders at AJHS who onTuesday night took the first step of a long academic journey byjoining Rising Scholars, an extension of the successful MississippiScholars program designed to get younger students ready for therigorous course work that comes with the main program in highschool. From now on, students in the program will be required totake a defined course of study, hold at least a 2.5 grade pointaverage, have 95 percent attendance and put in communityservice.

All that work could pay off in the form of college scholarshipswhen they graduate from high school, and it will mean they arebetter prepared for life beyond.

“Your children will have an academic advantage over other studentswho walk in the door at college,” Mississippi Scholars FundraisingChairman David Culpepper told parents. “It means your children arebetter prepared for life, whether that’s college, a job or themilitary.”

Program leaders told parents having a child involved in MississippiScholars would make college cheaper, as the better-preparedstudents would need far less remedial college courses and would beable to dive right into their major courses. Statistics show that49 percent of U.S. college students need remedial courses, andthose who get bogged down in the do-over classes are more likely todrop out.

Before any student ascends to college, however, they’ll needbacking at home. Rising Scholars is as much about recruitingparents as it is recruiting students.

Mississippi Scholars Chairman Kenny Goza said statistics show 40percent of the ninth-grade class entering Brookhaven High Schoolnext year will drop out.

“We’ve talked to 1,900 students in the classroom this year, andthey’re looking for hope,” he said. “They need you – mom, dad,neighbor, Sunday school teacher, coach. We all need to be hopeenablers.”

But while parents are the target of the program, the message is notlost on the scholars.

Amelia Williams, a 12-year-old seventh-grader, is planning to be aprofessional writer. She knows she has to bear down to make it, andthat’s why she joined Rising Scholars.

“When I get to college, I’ll be able to study harder, work harderin class,” she said.

Vernell Allen, also a 12-year-old seventh-grader, wants to be apsychiatrist, but he’s visualizing a payoff much sooner inlife.

“My parents won’t have to pay as much for college, so I can get abrand new car,” he said. “I’m hoping for a Mustang.”