Non-profits look to turn old Frazier school into enrichment center: ‘We need community buy-in’

Published 10:41 am Tuesday, May 28, 2024

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NATCHEZ — Two non-profit entities leasing the former Frazier Elementary School are seeking collaboration with other community organizations and donations to fulfill their vision of creating an educational and cultural enrichment center.

The “Joe Frazier Extended Education and Cultural Enrichment Center” would provide an array of programs at the school that would benefit the entire community on a broad scale.

Bettye Bell on behalf of Pretty Girls With Brains and Jarita Frazier-King on behalf of Southwest Mississippi Wellness Association first addressed the Natchez Adams School District Board of Trustees in December 2023 looking to use the building in partnership with other organizations.

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The school board later agreed to a free lease of the former primary school after reviewing their proposed plans, with the stipulation that their lease would not exclude other entities or the school board from using the facility as needed.

The lease is for the school library, the main office, the cafeteria and several classrooms.

Bell said they began considering how to use the building when the school board moved to consolidate schools in 2022, which would leave both Frazier and Robert Lewis Magnet School empty. Before doing so, the school board sought community input on ways the buildings could still be put to use.

“We didn’t want to see the building go to waste,” Bell said. “To us, its history and keeping it vital is important. But we needed to have a purpose that would serve every citizen in Adams County. When I say every citizen, even though it is in a predominantly Black area, we want to open it up to all people of Natchez by having it as an educational and cultural enrichment center.”

Bell said the programs they have in mind would be open to any age group, though their primary focus is on youth.

A list of these proposed programs includes classes in CDL training; culinary arts, agriculture and tourism; cyber security; domestic engineering; computer and informational technology; videography, photography and film; certified nursing assistant training; ACT prep; kindergarten through 12th grade Mississippi State Assessment tutorials; reading and Language Arts for enrichment and remediation; Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and Mathematics (STEAM) camp; entrepreneurial and general business skills training; financial literacy; and babysitting.

That is a broad vision that will take the community’s support to become reality, Bell said.

“The only way this is going to work is if we have community buy-in from everybody,” she said. “We need not just money donations but time and talent, too.”

For more details about the enrichment center and how to support the cause, contact King at 601-807-1008 or Bell at 601-456-2002.

Bell said they would be receiving a grant soon, that would allow them to begin hosting some activities at the school. However, the school district is in the process of cleaning and preparing the classrooms for use this summer, she said.

“We don’t know the exact date but prayerfully this will be in operation by the end of June,” she said.

For monetary donations, checks can be mailed to Pretty Girls With Brains at 22 Kingston Road, Natchez MS, 39120.