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Mississippi Scholars honors 182 heroes

One hundred and eighty-two heroes.

As Kenny Goza gazed out at the crowd of Mississippi Scholars, that’s exactly what he said he saw.

Goza, the program chairman, considers the students heroes because they have made steps toward their futures by becoming scholars.

Mississippi Scholars, an education program managed by the Public Education Forum of Mississippi, has flourished since it began in Lincoln County with 25 students in 2005. The Public Education Forum utilizes business leaders to motivate students to complete a rigorous course of study in high school.

The program requires participants to have at least a 2.5 GPA, 18 ACT score and 40 community service hours. Upon completion of those requirements, they’re invited to attend the annual scholarship ceremony at the end of the school year.

Students also receive a national ACT work ready community certificate. Copiah-Lincoln Community College staff applied for this certification and was approved last December.

“These certificates show that they’re ready for a career,” Goza said.

The approval makes Lincoln County the second county to become a workforce community.

“I’m overwhelmed. I didn’t see it growing to this point to have from this type of assembly. We are now are out of capacity here [at Easthaven],” Goza said.

The scholarship money of $127,200 was donated by corporate, private and individual sponsorships. Students received certain scholarship amounts based on their essays, which is Goza’s favorite part.

“We lock ourselves in our room for seven to eight hours, read essays and start giving money out,” he said.

The names are covered as Goza and the rest of the board members read the essays to make sure they’re judging them as fairly as possible.

“We’re trying to maintain the integrity of our program,” Goza said. “Sometimes we’re surprised when we unfold the names of the people.”

Easthaven Baptist Church has hosted the Mississippi Scholars ceremony and reception for nine years.

“It’s so exciting to see how the students of Lincoln County have risen to a level where we continually grow this program,” worship pastor Robert Mayfield said. “We, along with so many others of this community, are a part of this to encourage the students and support our education system. It’s a great honor just to be able to host it here.”

Lincoln County School Superintendent Mickey Myers said that every student who a part of this program represents the “cream of the crop.” Myers was in attendance with principals, elected officials and family members.

Many students, like Brookhaven High School Senior Arnancy Arnold, will add her scholarship to others she’s received.

“I’m a very proud father,” Darius Arnold said. “Arnancy took advantage of the opportunity she had. She has two full ride scholarship offers right now.”