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MSA graduation marks 10th anniversary

Graduation ceremonies bring reflections, celebrations, some tears and much hope for the future. As students make that final walk at the Mississippi School of the Arts, a whole community can do the same, for this class makes the 10th anniversary of a school that signifies what community spirit can accomplish.

Like proud parents, this community can puff our chests out, too. This community birthed a school; with the help of the good people of Mississippi we created an institution.

Indulge me with a little reflection on how all of this began.

It was an off-the-cuff comment in the summer of 1998 by then First Lady Pat Fordice that planted the seed.

A couple of phone calls and a brief meeting by a small group of community leaders to ponder the idea brought a more formal meeting a few weeks later with then Lt. Governor Ronnie Musgrove.

It was as pie in the sky idea, a shot it the dark if you will, but as with so many successful ideas, the timing was right.

As the 1999 Legislature convened in January, House Bill 706 was filed. The politicking began and the seed began to germinate.

In just 12 months, an idea bloomed into the legislation that created MSA – the legislation became law on July 1, 1999.

Four year later on Aug. 1, 2003, the doors of MSA opened for the first time.

Those early years were tough. The support in the Legislature waned, and numerous attempts were made to derail the school. The attempts were fast and furious with the last effort in 2010. MSA was in the crosshairs of two governors as well as House leadership each year.

One community did its best to steal the school for their own.

As the buildings of MSA tower over Brookhaven today, one can only look at them with pride. Those building represent an investment the state of Mississippi made for a quality education for some of our state’s most talented individuals.

So too does the campus represent what a community can do when it works together to accomplish a goal.

As a community we came together, all barriers were dropped, disagreements set aside and a mutual effort was undertaken. That community spirit was infectious and sensed by lawmakers in Jackson in 1999. They also felt the dream and saw the vision.

MSA students are this community’s adopted children. Friday’s graduation marks a milestone in their lives, but also a major milestone in this community.

In her comments at the ceremony in 1999 to celebrate the creation of the school, Mrs. Fordice talked of the “potential greatness that will walk the halls one day.”

She praised the citizens of Brookhaven for their dream, their vision and their persistence.

Greatness has walked these halls, and it will in the future.

We as a community can be proud of our part in creating the opportunity for that to happen.

Brookhaven resident Bill Jacobs is the former publisher of The Daily Leader.