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Program honors Mississippi Scholars

As the school year comes to a close, the hard work, dedication and perseverance of 175 local high school seniors will soon be recognized when they are honored as graduates of the Lincoln County Mississippi Scholars program.

Sunday from 2 to 4 p.m. at Easthaven Baptist Church, the Lincoln County Mississippi Scholars program will host an award ceremony with reception to follow rather than the program’s usual banquet. The change in the event’s format was made in adjustment to the growing numbers of students completing the rigorous program, according to Lincoln County Mississippi Scholars Committee Chairman Kenny Goza.

Goza

Goza

“Because the program has grown and to honor people’s time, we have restructured the event. It’s a great thing that the program is growing, but as it grows it takes up more time,” Goza said.

Goza said the format change isn’t necessarily permanent, but that they are working to find a way to aptly honor the growing number of high-performing students.

“We’ll evaluate [afterward] and see what worked, what didn’t, and if there’s something else we should do,” he said. “Every year we evaluate and ask ourselves, ‘[How well] did we honor the students and parents, was it good for our community and what can we do to make it better?’

The scholars program is able to give scholarship money to each of its graduates, Goza said, because of the overwhelming support from the community. The team within the scholars program committee charged with allocating private and collegiate donations works to make relationships with contributing parties and show appreciation. Almost every entity that participated last year is participating again, Goza said, and there are a couple of new contributors joining the effort.

“It’s all real positive. It just speaks volumes of the giving aspect of our community,” he said. “There are so many people who support the program and are very faithful about giving to us every year, and that’s how we’re able to give every Lincoln County [Mississippi Scholar] a scholarship of some kind.

“Our hope is that one day we can give something to every Lincoln County student,” Goza said. “We aren’t quite there yet, but hopefully we will be one day.”

Last year, the program expanded its focus to incorporate technical areas as well as college prep with the Mississippi Tech Master Scholars program. Goza said this addition has proved itself to be beneficial to even more students, as an emphasis in post-graduate options is cultivated.

“Now, you’ve got the student who goes to a four-year college or you may have a student that’ll go to a two-year community college or technical school to get a certificate,” he said. “The academic rigor [and the] requirements of both programs better prepares the student for post-graduate life, whether they are [university-bound or career-ready].”

Goza said he recently heard from a student who said they were better prepared for college when they got there and the tech program allows for students to have an edge for whichever option they choose.

“With the academic aspect, community service hours and attendance requirements, it prepares students for the college life and the work life too,” he said.

Goza said it helps get students in the mindset of getting up early, being disciplined, and getting involved with serving their community — skills beneficial for career and college.

The Lincoln County Mississippi Scholars program is highly regarded within the state, and that is because so much of the community cares about their cause, Goza said.

“It goes back to the community support we have. I can’t say enough about what the people of Brookhaven have done for the program. Our success is that reflection of the Brookhaven-Lincoln County community, and it’s just amazing.”