Two recent Mississippi School for Math and Science graduates will study Russian in the former Soviet Union this summer after winning scholarships sponsored by the U.S. State Department.
Mary Frances Holland and Ayres McCammon, both 18, were chosen to participate in the National Security Language Initiative for Youth, which sends students abroad to study Russian, Mandarin, Arabic and four other languages that the U.S. government deems critical. Holland is headed to Moldova and McCammon to Estonia. Both countries were once part of the USSR, and Russian is still widely spoken there. During their six-week immersion, the two students will live with host families and attend intensive Russian classes.
Holland, the daughter of Jamie and Ouida Holland of Lucedale, and McCammon, son of Mr. and Mrs. David McCammon of Southaven, studied Russian at MSMS under world language teacher Margaret Mary Henry. MSMS is the only high school in Mississippi that offers Russian.
“I am enormously proud of these wonderful young scholars, and I am thrilled that they have this opportunity to continue growing,” Henry said. “Our country needs more young people like them who aspire to acquire the language proficiency and the cultural and political insight that will help the United States engage more effectively abroad.”
A select group
More than 3,200 U.S. high-school students applied this year for summer and academic-year programs in the seven languages offered under NSLI-Y, according to a spokesperson for the American Councils for International Education, the Washington organization that administers the program for the State Department. Holland and McCammon were among a total of 600 selected to receive the scholarships, which are worth about $7,000 each.
At MSMS, Holland and McCammon, who were graduated May 23, were leaders in Slavic extracurricular activities. McCammon served as president of the school’s Russian Club, and both performed in “Matryoshka,” the school’s Russian folk ensemble. Holland led Russian Club students in making Ukrainian Easter eggs.
Holland plans to major in international studies at the Croft Institute at the University of Mississippi, which has awarded her a Luckyday Scholarship, a Bledsoe Scholarship and an Academic Excellence award. She said Russian culture attracted her to the Russian language. “I first became interested in Russian through reading articles about Russia and watching videos of Russian ballet,” Holland said. Referring to her upcoming summer abroad, she commented, “I am excited to learn more Russian, and interact with native Russian speakers.”
McCammon plans to major in physics, with either a second major or a minor in Russian, at the University of Alabama Huntsville, where he has received a full-tuition scholarship. “I applied to NSLI-Y because I want to put what I have learned into practice. Not only that, but I also wish to experience Russian culture firsthand,” said McCammon, adding: “Too often, we take commonalities in American thought and social norms for granted; by going to foreign countries, we slowly shear away at that facade of what is expected, and we begin to see a bigger picture of the world with a much clearer perspective.”
MSMS is Mississippi’s only public residential high school specifically designed to meet the needs of Mississippi’s most academically talented students. The school, located on the campus of Mississippi University for Women in Columbus, serves high school juniors and seniors from every corner of the Magnolia State. In 2014, the school was named the 57th best high school in America by the Daily Beast and was named the 24th best high school in the American Southeast by the same publication.
Millions in scholarships
Thus far, the MSMS Class of 2015 has been offered more than $22 million in college scholarships, of which more than $7 million has been accepted. Twenty percent have been awarded more than $100,000 in scholarships; the remaining 80 percent are currently averaging about $38,000 in scholarship awards per student.
“We are still calculating all the scholarships our students have been offered, but we are confident our students will be offered more than $23 million when the count is finished,” said MSMS Admissions Counselor Wade Leonard.
MSMS accepts applications from current high school sophomores; however, the Class of 2017 has already been selected. The application for the Class of 2018 will be made available by August 2015. For more information about MSMS, visit themsms.org.
You can help your community
Quality, in-depth journalism is essential to a healthy community. The Dispatch brings you the most complete reporting and insightful commentary in the Golden Triangle, but we need your help to continue our efforts. Please consider subscribing to our website for only $2.30 per week to help support local journalism and our community.