Mutual Admiration

Published 7:00 pm Tuesday, February 22, 2011

WESSON – Missing class is a tasty treat in itself, but to begiven breakfast and rub elbows with local legislators makes missingclass even sweeter.

Taking a timeout from the usual routine is exactly what membersof Copiah-Lincoln Community College’s Eta Omega Chapter of PhiTheta Kappa did on Monday as they hosted a “LegislativeAppreciation Breakfast” at the Thames Conference Center.

“This is better than class,” joked college President Dr. RonnieNettles at the beginning of the function. “We’re very fortunate tobe among friends, people that truly care about (Co-Lin).”

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In attendance were roughly 50 members of the honors society,staff, faculty, administrators, Rep. Tom Weathersby, Rep. BobbyMoak, Rep. Greg Holloway Sr. and Sen. Cindy Hyde-Smith.

The legislators fielded some hardball questions from Phi ThetaKappa members that ranged from health issues to immigration.However, the softest pitch of the morning came when legislatorswere asked if they would support the closing of communitycolleges.

“That’s the easiest question we’ve had yet,” jokedWeathersby.

Weathersby went on to say that community colleges are a greatoption for higher learning. He mentioned that they can be moreaffordable, closer to home and help prepare people for theworkforce.

Holloway continued after Weathersby left the podium.

“I would never support anything that remotely supports closing acommunity college,” said Holloway. “Community colleges do anexcellent job of preparing young (people) for the future.”

The national organization of Phi Theta Kappa urged its chaptersto work with school administrators. About a month ago Eta OmegaChapter President Nicole Magee and chapter Co-Adviser Erin Smithmet with Nettles to discuss ways the organization could help thecollege.

“(Dr. Nettles) thought the most important thing was to establisha connection with our local lawmakers,” said Magee. “We wanted tomake sure they remember how important it is that community collegescontinue to function.”

Ranking higher in attendance than three universities inMississippi and with community colleges receiving 6.9 percent ofthe general fund distribution of the educational funding for thefiscal year of 2011 compared to universities’ 19.8 percent – lessin the way of budget cuts is never a bad thing.

“We just wanted them to see us; we wanted our voices heard,”said Erin Smith. “No lawmaker will say they’re going to shut down acommunity college, but we need money to function.”

The organization’s members hope putting faces with names helpslocal legislators remember Co-Lin when it comes time to make budgetcuts.

“A lot of times legislators just think numbers because that’sall they see,” said Magee. “We’re not numbers, we’re people, and Iwouldn’t go to community college if I didn’t think it was worthit.”

School officials were proud with the way students representedCo-Lin and impressed with the way they did their legislativehomework. Erin Smith said she hopes the honors society can continueto build a relationship with local lawmakers.

“It’s easy to support this institution,” said Cindy Hyde-Smith.”I’m a product of this wonderful place and will support itforever.”