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Committee prepares to award scholarships

More than 160 area high school seniors will earn recognition as Lincoln County Mississippi Scholars and the volunteers hosting the program hope to give each one a scholarship.

Today is the deadline for donations toward the scholarships — or at least to give notification of intent, said Jason Snider, a Brookhaven alderman and risk manager at King’s Daughters Medical Center.

“We want to try to give everyone a scholarship this year and it takes a village to do that,” he said.

The graduating seniors will be recognized at an award banquet April 7 at 2 p.m. at Easthaven Baptist Church. Beginning next week, a scholarship appropriations committee consisting of Snider and three other volunteers award scholarship amounts based on submitted essays, scholarships already received and other criteria to designate Mississippi Scholars scholarship amounts for each student. In some cases, businesses earmark donations to students majoring in certain fields such as engineering or nursing, he said. All of that is considered when the committee meets, however, the student’s names are not revealed to the members. They don’t know the identities of the students when deciding the awards, he said.

The April 7 ceremony is quickly approaching, which is why Snider needs a commitment by the end of today. That will allow the committee to have a good idea of how much they’ll have for the scholarships, he said.

“Traditionally, they’ve been able to give a minimum of a $250 scholarship in the past several years,” he said. “That’s a huge commitment for our community to be able to do that.”

To make a donation today, drop a check at the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce at 230 South Whitworth Ave. Checks must be payable to Lincoln County Mississippi Scholars.

To commit an amount to pay later, call or text Snider at 601-695-8123 or email jsnider1987@gmail.com.  If it’s a business and a first-time donor, Snider will also need a copy of the business logo.

Since its first graduating class of seniors was recognized in 2006, hundreds of students have earned the designation as a Mississippi Scholar or Tech Master.

And while that is special in its own right, the real reward is the scholarship money that each student in the program receives.

The Mississippi Scholars program is able to provide scholarships because of the donations of private individuals, businesses, community colleges and universities. The program was started by Kay Burton in 2005 with help from Kenny Goza. In the program, administered statewide by the Mississippi Economic Council and locally by the Brookhaven-Lincoln County Chamber of Commerce, students are encouraged to take more challenging courses that will better prepare them for the future. Students must take a rigorous course of study, attend class regularly, score well on the ACT and do community service to be designated as Mississippi Scholars.

The program gets students career ready, so that they slide easily from high school graduation to a college or technical school because of the advanced curriculum they’ve already mastered.

The program’s requirements are academically rigorous, but the community service and attendance requirements are just as vital to the success of students. The program requires that students complete 40 hours of community service during four years of high school. That forces students to be aware of service opportunities in communities. That requirement jumps to 80 hours in four years for the Class of 2022 and after. The minimum ACT score will increase from 18 to 19 in 2020 as well, he said.

Students must keep at least a 95 percent attendance throughout high school.