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The Brainstorm

MSMS Senior Sydney Matrisciano to Compete in the International Olympiada of Spoken Russian

A Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (MSMS) senior will represent the United States in an international competition among students of Russian next month.

Sydney Matrisciano, 17, daughter of Suzanne and Louis Matrisciano of Winona, is among six American high school students selected for the U.S. team competing at this year’s International Olympiada of Spoken Russian in Moscow December 4-8. Matrisciano became eligible to vie for a spot on the team after winning a gold medal in the regional competition held in April at Rhodes College in Memphis. 

“I'd be lying if I said I wasn't nervous!” Matrisciano said. “It's definitely a lot of pressure, but I'm so honored by this opportunity to represent America, particularly the American South, on an international level.”

The 150 contestants at Moscow’s Pushkin Institute will be competing for gold, silver and bronze medals that reward proficiency in Russian conversation, recitation of Russian poetry by heart, and knowledge of Russian civilization. Matrisciano, a student of MSMS world language teacher Margaret Mary Henry, and her teammates will be traveling under the auspices of the American Council of Teachers of Russian. 

This is not the first Russian honor for Matrisciano. In her junior year she won a $7,000 scholarship to study in the former Soviet Union under the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, a program that sends high school students abroad to study Russian and six other languages that the federal government deems critical to U.S. political and economic interests. For six weeks last summer, she attended intensive Russian classes at the Ion Creangă Pedagogical State University in Chisinau, Moldova and lived with a Russian-speaking host family.

Matrisciano said she decided to study Russian because it was exotic and ended up falling in love with the intricate language. “Russian is an exercise in complex thought,” she said. 

The student aspires to a career in the U.S. Foreign Service as a public diplomacy officer. “I often think of Moldova as the litmus test for my dreams of being a diplomat,” she reflected. “It was sort of like job shadowing, in a sense, in that I was often the only American in the room. I was also often the first American many people had ever met. This gave me a ton of practice representing America well and talking around controversial issues – like the debate surrounding our recently elected president.”

Matrisciano was recently named a finalist in the QuestBridge scholarship program, which matches outstanding students with partner universities. She is now awaiting word on which university she will be matched with. “It's a little funny – the day I fly to Russia is the day the finalist match results are released. I'll theoretically know as soon as I step off the plane. I'm hoping to be matched with the University of Notre Dame. I'll double major in Russian studies and political science.”

Matrisciano has been involved in many extra-curricular pursuits at MSMS, serving, for example, as president of the Catholic Club, secretary for the school’s chapter of the Mississippi Model Security Council, and as a captain for the MSMS soccer team, on which she plays left striker and right wing.

MSMS, located on the campus of Mississippi University for Women, offered Russian briefly in past decades and began offering the Slavic language again in 2012. It is the only high school in the state that teaches Russian.

Julia MorrisonComment
Dr. Charles Vaughan Published in The Astronomical Journal
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Congratulations to Dr. Charles Vaughan on being published in the most recent volume of The Astronomical Journal. Dr. Vaughan graduated from Mississippi State University in 2015 with a Ph.D. in Applied Physics. His dissertation focused on the gaseous coma of the Hartley 2 comet. Hartley 2 is an active comet that was visited a few years ago by NASA in an unmanned space flyby mission. Dr. Vaughan’s research on Hartley 2 was published in an article entitled Jet Morphology and Coma Analysis of Comet 103P in the November edition of The Astronomical Journal. 

Julia MorrisonComment
2017 Sites & Sounds Tour
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From The Vision, the MSMS Student Newspaper by Keely Brewer

The MSMS Blue Notes set out on their annual Sites and Sounds tour last Thursday, Nov. 9, and returned to Columbus Sunday evening after an exciting and successful trip.

Sites and Sounds is an annual event, led by music teacher Dawn Barham, that travels throughout the state of Mississippi putting on musical performances, alternating between two different routes each year.

“This year we went to the coast, so next year we’re going to go the Delta. We have a kickoff performance in Columbus the week before we leave, to fundraise. Then we spend a weekend in our location, performing and taking in the culture,” Edith Marie Green shared. “This year, we went to the coast. We spent a day in New Orleans, and then we hung out in Biloxi. Our home base was in Biloxi and was literally a walk across the street to the beach.”

“We performed in Biloxi at the Veterans Day Parade and at the First United Methodist Church in Poplarville,” Indu Nandula shared.

For an MSMS student to be involved in Sites and Sounds, they must take either Instrumental Performance or Choral Performance.

Green stated, “We start learning our music at the very beginning of the year. A few weeks before our first performance, we start having rehearsals during tutorials with both the band and choir since we’ll be performing together. Once the music is down, we work on crew and rooming lists so we’re prepared for travel.”

The students work together to select the pieces that will be played during the performances.

“The only stipulation is that it has to be tied back to Mississippi somehow,” shared Anna Grace Dulaney, on how students choose certain pieces.

Sites and Sounds is an incredible opportunity for its participants to experience new types of music, collaborate with other students, and perform in front of different and exciting audiences.

Green shared her most memorable experience from the trip.

“We did an African drumming circle in New Orleans, and everyone was dancing, singing and beating on drums. It was really fun and cleansing to just gather together and make music.” She added that “Performing at the Veteran’s Day parade was also really fun, because from the stage I could see adults singing and little kids dancing and it was great to bring joy into people’s lives like that.”

Nandula echoed Green’s opinion, saying, “My favorite part of the trip was probably New Orleans, specifically when we went to Armstrong Park where we learned about traditional African drumming and dancing. Working together in harmony to celebrate a culture that was unknown to us brought many of us together as both classmates and a family, and it was really fun and beautiful to see.”

Students who participated voiced their appreciation for the experience that the trip provided them.

“I would definitely do Sites and Sounds again. Spreading the love and joy of music is really important in this world because it brings a people together in a way that nothing else can,” Nandula said.

Julia MorrisonComment
No Lost Generation Refugee Camp Simulation Comes to MSMS

The MSMS Forgotten Stories Club, in collaboration with The W Leadership Program, hosted a refugee tent simulation exhibit on Wednesday, November 8. The event was led by Mississippi State University’s chapter of No Lost Generation. No Lost Generation is a student-led organization aimed at mobilizing students to respond to the Syrian refugee crisis and is supported by the Department of State. Roughly fifty colleges and universities across the United States have joined the No Lost Generation student initiative to draw attention and resources to support humanitarian crises in Syria and around the world. 

On Wednesday, the MSMS community had the opportunity to experience a refugee tent simulation, which included a sample refugee tent, food and water displays, and virtual reality goggles showing a school in Syria. Students were also given a small card with a biography of a real refugee that detailed that individual’s experience with displacement. Guides from No Lost Generation asked students to walk through the exhibit from the perspective of the person whose card they received. 

Through tent simulations like this one, No Lost Generation chapters advocate for, “an entire generation of children that is being shaped by violence, displacement, and a persistent lack of opportunity.” The organization focuses on expanding access to learning opportunities, providing psychosocial supports and resources, strengthening peacebuilding efforts, and restoring a sense of hope in those impacted. 

For a more detailed look at the event and the impact it had on MSMS students, check out this great article in the Columbus Commercial Dispatch entitled, “’No Lost Generation’: Traveling Exhibit Aims to Raise Awareness, Empathy for Syrian Refugees”:

Julia MorrisonComment
MSMS Featured in TeenLife's 2017 Guide to STEM Colleges & Programs
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TeenLife Media recently collaborated with the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) to produce a 2017 Guide to STEM Colleges and Programs. As an organization, TeenLife’s mission is to, “connect students, parents, and educators with the best experiential learning opportunities for middle and high school students.” The 2017 guide features over 300 colleges and programs that are being showcased at one or more of the STEM College & Career Fairs NACAC has organized throughout the United States this fall. 

The Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science is featured on page 25 of the guide in an article entitled, “Would a Stem High School Be Right for You?” In that article, MSMS is highlighted as an exemplar of STEM education, providing innovative learning experiences to our students and emphasizing critical thinking, problem-solving, and collaboration. The article also mentions some of MSMS’s unique outreach opportunities such as Science Carnival and Tales from the Crypt. Quotes from current students, Devon Matheny, Harpreet Singh, and Keely Brewer give the story life and provide a student’s perspective on life at MSMS. 

You can find the complete guide at


Julia MorrisonComment