Last Wednesday, April 11, the Columbus Lowndes Chamber of Commerce held its annual Education Awards Program. Mrs. Brown and Ms. Heintz both serve on the Chamber’s Education Committee. This year, Lori Feng and Aiden Dunkleberg received the award for highest GPA for the eleventh and twelfth grades respectively. Shuchi Patel received a corporate scholarship from Carl Hogan Honda and Anna Kolby Myatt received a corporate scholarship from PACCAR. Mary Ellen Owings was selected as MSMS’s Outstanding Senior. Additionally, Ms. Owings was recognized as the Overall Outstanding Senior and LINK Scholarship recipient. Ms. Heintz had the honor of awarding the Outstanding Seniors at this year’s program. Victoria Gong, current junior at MSMS, provided the musical accompaniment for the event. Congratulations Lori, Aiden, Shuchi, AK, and Mary Ellen!
Last week a group of nineteen students went to Jackson to participate in the Future Business Leaders of America State Leadership Conference. There they competed with hundreds of students from all over the state in various categories. I am so proud to say that, because of all their diligent preparation and hard work, ALL of our competitors placed in the top three in their events. They are therefore all eligible to compete at the National Leadership Conference in Baltimore, Maryland this summer. Here are the winners:
Aurelia Caine, Word Processing
Devin Chen, Lori Feng, Brianna Ladnier, American Enterprise Project
Devin Chen, Advaith Sunil, Loveish Sarolia, and Millie Perdue, Parliamentary Procedure
Alan Elgin, Business Calculations
Lori Feng, Emerging Business Issues
Deja Hughes and Sierra Reynolds, Website Design
Brianna Ladnier, Community Service Project, Impromptu Speaking
Sara Sheward, Electronic Career Portfolio
John Bowlin, Calisa Henry, Sabrina Solomon, Marketing
Anna Katherine Overstreet, Accounting
Brianna Ladnier and Calisa Henry, Local Chapter Annual Business Report
Tija Johnson and Ta'Kiya Moore, Business Ethics
Caitlin Jordan, Publication Design
Likhitha Polepalli, Organizational Leadership
MSMS also got recognized for the Chapter Increase Award, three Membership Madness awards, and recognition for our participation in the Lead the Way Program. Congratulations again to all these students!
By Mariat Thankachan
The Vision newspaper staff received the valuable opportunity to attend the annual Mississippi Scholastic Press Association Conference (MSPAC) on March 27. Hosted by the University of Mississippi, the conference featured numerous seminars to encourage high school students to continue their work with journalism and search for new ways to improve their writing and photography skills.
Thomas Richardson is The Vision’s adviser, and he has accompanied the students to the event for two years.
“MSPA does a great job of providing such a wide variety of workshops that any student can find something that interests them and is relevant to what we do every week. From writing better leads to taking better photos to managing social media accounts engagingly and ethically, there is a workshop for everything. I also think that high school journalism groups, including ours, often get caught up in getting the paper out every week at the expense of stepping back to think about what we're doing in the big picture. There were great discussions at the conference, too, about what it really means to be a journalist in this modern context,” Richardson stated.
The three hour-long workshops, taught by university professors and professionals in the field, featured topics from “How to Spot Fake News” to “Smartphone Photography.” The wide variety of options served to attract the interest of newspaper, broadcast, social media and yearbook students alike. The informative sessions also allowed The Vision staff to interact with fellow journalists across the state.
Juniors on the staff especially enjoyed their insightful first experience representing The Vision at the conference, every member participating in various workshops.
Staff writer Victoria Gong said, “I especially loved the level closeness and approachability even large seminars like the one that the reporter for the Starkville Pride Parade gave. The virtual reality simulation was really unique. I got to be a flying firefighter; I think that was my favorite part.”
An awards ceremony and keynote address was held in the afternoon. With a message of how listening is the path to journalistic success, the keynote address was delivered by Jesse J. Holland, author of the companion novel to “Black Panther.” Holland discussed his childhood growing up in Holly Springs and recalled his past memories of traveling down the road of written stories and reports.
Run similar to the Oscars, MSPA’s “Best of Mississippi” awards recognizes five finalists and one winner for each category, with hundreds of entries overall. This year, The Vision had individuals recognized for specific pieces published within the last year but were also recognized in two categories as a whole staff.
Keely Brewer (x2)—Sports Photo, News Photo
Hayden Stokley—Opinion Piece
Victoria Gong (x2)—Opinion Piece, Sports Story
Timothy Lewis—Sports Story
Rebecca Chen (class of ‘17)—Editorial Cartoon
Dev Jaiswal—News Story
The Vision Staff:
Social Media Presence
“We had almost the same number of nominations we had last year, though in different categories, which tells me two things: We are growing in our skills, contending in categories (like sports) that I wouldn't have expected. On the other hand, it tells me that we have some work to do to make a big push for some of the top awards. It's really hard to compete with some of the newspapers that meet much more regularly than MSMS students are able to do, and with groups that put out a regular print edition. There are some really stellar programs out there--Oxford, Oak Grove, Jackson Prep, etc.--that have an established history, too. I am really proud of what we publish week in and week out, particularly when our students are involved in so many other activities, but I hope that hearing the other schools names over and over again sparks a little fire in some of the juniors,” Richardson acknowledged.
Richardson realizes the extent of talent on the staff currently.
“I tend to think that what separates MSMS students from the crowd is a desire to improve in everything they do. To do that in journalism, we'll need dedication. As I said before, I think that sometimes we get so caught up in getting articles out every week that I don't think we always have a big-picture goal,”
He continued, “I'm hoping that some current juniors will stick with it next year, and we can go into the year with clear goals and organization structures in mind--that they will be dedicated to improving The Vision in every way possible. For example, I hope we get to the point (like in newsrooms I've been a part of) that it becomes a reward to actually have your article published, and that articles that don't meet a peer-reviewed standard won't make it in. In other words, I hope there's enough participation that students can set a standard of quality content each week. I also hope that we can do more long-form or depth pieces. I would like to see us try to dive into some of the more "professional" story opportunities out there--looking into legislative decisions that affect the school, and so on. More than anything, though, I want The Vision to become more of a hub of student information and participation in the discussions that are important to the student body. We've come a long way in getting our general readership up--thanks to alumni groups and the school's PR department--but I want students to be invested in it. It's their paper, after all. All that said, I cannot say enough how talented some of the juniors are and how much they've already contributed. The future can be really, really bright for the paper.”
Compiling notes and lessons learned from the conference, the staff plans to develop a new manner of improving their weekly publication. Their next most important project is the upcoming annual graduation print edition. This special edition poses the true test of commitment, an involved process that requires all hands on deck.
Senior Hayden Stokley was recently offered a position in the Summer 2018 RESULTS for Advocacy Fellowship Program. RESULTS Advocacy Fellowship is a hands-on training opportunity for young people focused on developing the next generation of activists and leaders in the fight against poverty.
The program provides fellows with the opportunity to work with the media, their communities and policymakers to raise awareness about issues related to poverty. RESULTS encourages youth to use their voice to influence political change that will bring an end to poverty.
“I started working with RESULTS, which is the overarching group, last summer. It’s a grassroots advocacy coalition. Through some connections, I was looking for something to invest my time in and had a meaningful purpose to it. Their big motto is the power to end poverty, so we work through education issues and women health issues to do so both globally and nationally. That was important to me. Since I’m interested in working in maybe public policy or social work in the future, I think that this might be a good way for me to start working in that because it offers a lot of training and lots of connections. All the people are really enthusiastic about it, and there are full time careers in that aspect of advocacy and social justice work,” Stokley stated.
The year-long fellowship will begin in July for Stokley. The program will begin in Washington D.C. with a training and development session led by experts in political advocacy and lobbying. The next few weeks will be spent speaking directly with members of Congress and their staff on Capitol Hill. Throughout the rest of the year, Stokley and her peer fellows will receive ongoing training through bi-weekly calls to continue honing their advocacy and lobbying skills.
In the fall, once Stokley begins her freshman year at Cornell, she will be involved in coordinating activities for RESULTS, rising awareness in her school community and recruiting additional fellows for the RESULTS program.
On March 6, the entire student body from the Mississippi School for Mathematics Science (MSMS) gathered in Nissan Auditorium on the campus of the Mississippi University for Women to participate in the first annual Business Plan Competition in collaboration with Regions Bank. Five teams of MSMS students faced off against one another in an attempt to win bragging rights and significant prize money.
In August of 2017, Dr. Kayla Hester launched the Business Plan Competition, providing the student body with an overview of the competition rules and guidelines, concluding with a call for business plan proposals due in mid-October. Dr. Hester convened a panel of three judges, who represented business development experts across the state of Mississippi—Mr. Billy Mounger, Chief Executive Officer for TriStar, Mr. Sean Wessel, Chief Financial Officer for Quality Steel, and Mr. Brian Haynes, President of Jones Logistics. The panel of judges narrowed the submitted business plans down to the top five teams. Those top five teams advanced to the final round of the competition which included one on one business development meetings with each of the judges to further hone their proposals and a final presentation for the panel of judges and the entire MSMS school community.
On March 6, all five teams had fifteen minutes each to deliver a compelling presentation of their business plan proposal to the panel of judges, the MSMS school community, and local family and friends. Each presentation also included a question and answer session with the judges to probe deeper on the plans’ feasibility and scalability.
The first team to present was comprised of senior, Gary Nguyen and juniors, Hamilton Wan and Helen Peng. Their business concept was called, “Meterwise” and consisted of a plan to create and supply better utility meters to track energy usage and enable customers to make more environmental and budget-friendly energy choices.
“The competition was largely a learning experience for me, and I am grateful for having had the opportunity to work alongside my teammates to develop an idea that we felt strongly about,” Nguyen described. “Along the way, I’ve come to realize the amount of commitment that entrepreneurship requires.”
Next up were seniors Alana Andrus and Gene Kloss. Their non-profit business pitch involved leveraging music to improve physical therapy outcomes for patients. The concept, entitled, “Musical Motivations,”
was inspired by Andrus’ own personal experience. She stated, “The concept for Musical Motivations came from my own experiences in my spinal rehab after being diagnosed with a wedge compression fracture in my T-spine.”
The third team consisted of seniors, Griffin Stewart, Sydney Matriascano and Mariana Strawn, under the business name, Oodles of Noodles. Their concept was to produce caffeine-enhanced noodles that are easily prepared and nutritionally satisfying. They concluded their presentation with a variety of noodle-inspired puns designed to get the audience laughing and make a lasting impression.
The fourth team of the evening was Daniel Smothers and Justin Cucuzza, who shared their concept for customized straight-line and bolt-action pens. Smothers’ Pens specialized in pens with a story, crafting each writing utensil from a unique wood that spoke to its ultimate purpose. Smothers and Cucuzza produced beautifully hand-crafted pens for each of the judges made from wood related to their field of expertise. For example, Mr. Haynes, who works in supply-chain logistics, received a pen refined from the wood of an old pallet.
The final presentation for the evening was All or Muffin, led by Brianna Ladnier and Jackson Sparkman. Their business concept was to launch a health-oriented bakery that focused on delivering nutritious and delicious baked goods to those with specific dietary needs. “I was inspired by the general lack of options for those with dietary restrictions. I was vegetarian for four years, so I knew how hard it was to find options,” Ladnier explained.
Once all five teams had completed their presentations, the panel of judges were dismissed to deliberate. During the interlude, there were several performances from MSMS student vocalists and musicians. The judges then re-emerged to announce the winners.
All or Muffin took home third place and were awarded $750 each. Smothers’ Pens received second place honors and $1,500 per team member. Oodles of Noodles obtained first place and $3,000 in prize money for each participant. All scholarship prize money was generously funded by Regions Bank to encourage entrepreneurship and business acumen. “Speaking on behalf of the Oodles of Noodles team, we were so humbled to win. And over the moon excited! It was absolutely breathtaking to see our hard work pay off, and we highly encourage everyone to participate next year,” Sydney Matriascano stated.
The evening concluded with brief remarks from Arthur DuCote, State President for Mississippi at Regions Financial Corporation on the importance of business development, relationship building, and entrepreneurship to students’ future success. Students were motivated by DuCote’s words and were inspired by the presentations they saw their peers deliver. Sidney Mason, current junior, said, “I cannot wait to participate next year, seeing everyone on stage with their ideas and dream really inspired me to believe I can actually do it. It won’t be easy, I know but there’s nothing wrong with giving your all and trying especially when it’s a possibility of getting a scholarship!”
See below for video footage of each presentation.