Student anticipates college

Published 12:04 am Thursday, August 18, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Natchez High School’s Debra Whitley is the editor of the school’s newspaper. She has also been accepted into the Lott Leadership Institute.

NATCHEZ — When Natchez High School senior Debra Whitley first heard she was going to be taking classes at the University of Mississippi this summer, she knew she was going to have fun, but she didn’t know it was going to be the best summer of her life.

Whitley was accepted into the Lott Leadership Institute, a program meant to help students develop leadership skills, and spent one month on the Ole Miss campus taking classes and learning about college life.

“I got to see so many people from different backgrounds and beliefs,” she said. “And even though it was only a month, they tried to make it as real to college as they could.”

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In addition to taking speech and political science for future college credits, Whitley said she was given a meal card, lived on campus and even had to use the library for research.

“It really helped me prepare for what is to come,” she said. “Now that I am back at (NHS), I feel like it even helped me with my time management.”

Whitley said the whole experience was capped off with a weeklong stay in Washington, D.C.

“I got to talk with some leaders and representatives in the state,” she said. “And I got to visit a lot of historical landmarks.”

With 900 students around the state competing for 50 spots in the institute, Whitley said she was excited to hear she was accepted.

“I was very happy when I heard,” she said. “I knew it was going to be a great experience that would help me and train me in what I need to know.”

Whitley said her GPA of more than 4.0, and her long list of extracurricular activities, including editor of the school newspaper, senior class president, Beta club member, co-president of the school choir, Girl Scout member, tutor at her church and more, helped her gain a spot in the program.

“It all goes back to being exposed,” she said. “Being in all these different organizations, I have a lot of opportunities to network and see what else is out there.”

With nine hours of college credit already at her disposal, Whitley said the wait for her high school days to end is a bittersweet experience.

“All the time I tell my friends that after this year we aren’t going to see each other anymore,” she said. “But I know we can still talk, and after the institute, I know when I get to college there will be plenty of new people and new experiences out there for me.”

Whitley said she hasn’t decided between Ole Miss or Louisiana State University for her college, and that she still has to decide what her career choice is going to be.

“I am 98 percent sure I am going to major in English,” she said. “I have always been interested in law, but political science or marketing and advertising are also something I might want to do.”

For now, Whitley said she is going to continue to do her best at NHS and enjoy her final year as a Bulldog.