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Natchez scholars are future leaders

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT The Natchez High Mississippi Scholar students include, first row from left; Courtney Sims, Julia Long, Mirna Hernandez, Ashawnté Wallace, Brittany Mearday, Sivani Patel, Debra Whitley Adriana Nix and Micaiah Chenier; second row, Jada Banks, Le’Andrea Mitchell, Rachel Young, Aliah Green, Clarnecia Arbuthnot, Dominique Clark, Maleiah Dixon and Kelsy Sewell; third row, Alana Brown, Tierra Cain, Maya Jackson, Kira McCrainey, Asia Holloway, Jordan Hughes, Jasmine Green, Devaunta Jones and Clarence Hayes; fourth row, Jonathan Weir, Kejuan McClain, Zach West, Troy Brooks, Calvin Butler, Charles Marsaw, Queyahna Jackson and Cierra Smith; fifth row, Tre Coles, Levarious Dorsey, Hakeem Jones, Vantrell Perry and Cedric Gaylor. Not pictured are Ashley Ambrose and Ciara Smith.

NATCHEZ — Forty Mississippi Scholars who are now seniors at Natchez High School have committed to taking more difficult courses, keeping in mind a great reward down the road.

The Mississippi Scholars program is an initiative to utilize business leaders to motivate students to complete a more challenging course of study in high school. Since Mississippi joined the initiative in 2003, 14,000 state high school students have graduated with the Mississippi Scholars distinction.

Students are required to keep a 2.5 grade point average and perform at least 20 hours of community service. They must also maintain 95 percent attendance.

“These are our elite,” said Jerry Knight, NHS assistant principal. “They are our future leaders in what ever fields they chose.”

Students said the courses are tough, but they know it will be worth it in the long run.

“We take more of the advanced classes,” said senior Calvin Butler. “Like pre-calculus and trig.”

Hakeem Jones said the program has given him perspective.

“I can see where I stand now in high school, and all of the things I have been able to accomplish,” Jones said. “It lets me know how much I am capable of, because those harder classes have prepared me to have more skills in life. It’s not easy, but I am more knowledgeable.”

Jonathan Weir said the program has enhanced his experience at Natchez High School. For his community service contribution, Weir spends fifth period working in the school office.

Class SGA President Debra Whitley said to fulfill her community service hours, she visited nursing homes among other activities.

Jones said he is very active in JROTC, and the group volunteers time reading to children, visiting nursing homes and cleaning up streets like Liberty Road. Butler said he works in the guidance office and is involved in a club outside school that raises money for the Natchez-Adams County Humane Society.

Whitley said the seniors encourage younger students to join the program.

“It teaches self motivation and time management,” Whitley said.

Natchez High School Principal Cleveland Moore said the program equips students for college and beyond.

“I think this helps students become more well rounded as they advance from K-12 to college,” Moore said. “These vigorous courses are what they will face at the collegiate level.”

Roberta Phipps, assistant principal, said she has seen the fruits of the program, and named Natchez scholars students who have gone on to be successful business men and women.

“They are doing great things now as a result of being part of the program,” Phipps said. “But we had scholars from Natchez High School back before Mississippi Scholars was ever thought of.”

Program advisor Iris Myles said success is never a guarantee, but so far the trend is good. She added that students of the program used to compete for grant money, but the funding was cut.

“Students who graduated last year got no financial reward,” Myles said. “Hopefully in the future that will be reinstated. I’m proud that our students were still interested in being in the program.”

Allison Jowers, assistant principal, said she appreciates local business leaders visiting the school and talking to students.

“We’ve had some bank leaders, hospital staff, Co-Lin and Alcorn faculty and even Layne Taylor from the Natchez Little Theatre come to talk,” Jowers said. “I think they students really took stock and listened.”

Knight said the students are very attentive to those real-world experiences.

“They are really great students,” Knight said.