“MSMS is a high school. But it is probably very different than the high school you attend right now.” Themsms.org
As an alumna of the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science, I can wholeheartedly attest to this.
MSMS is unique. In a state which consistently sits near or at the bottom of the US educational system, MSMS ranks as one of the top high schools in the nation.
The magnet school, founded in 1987, nurtures Mississippi’s academically gifted students. It has educated, challenged and inspired students from diverse social and economic backgrounds, serving students from successful schools and failing schools alike.
But MSMS doesn’t just attract 11th and 12th grade students interested in math and science. By offering advanced courses in all subjects, this beacon of excellence attracts Mississippi’s best students and provides them an environment where they can flourish. This in a state where academic excellence is often not expected and too seldom found.
Without essential support, MSMS will flounder in its efforts to elevate the student from the Delta who dreams of pursuing medicine, or lift the poverty-stricken student from the Pine Belt who hopes for a brighter future through education.
My story with MSMS is longstanding. I grew up with the school. My dad, Chuck Yarborough, teaches history at MSMS and has led the Tales from the Crypt program for many years, following in the footsteps of his mentor and late colleague, Carl Butler.
Tales from the Crypt offers just one example of MSMS’s community impact.
Students research and write about an individual buried in Columbus’ Friendship Cemetery. The students create scripts and compete for the chance to perform before audiences from near and far.
Through innovative and unique programs like this, MSMS not only develops students academically but also cultivates the values of leadership and community service. MSMS students also educate Mississippians, young and old, through outreach programs like Tales.
Before I started high school, I hoped MSMS was in my future. I was relieved when I received my acceptance letter. I had met MSMS’s standards for admission, and I expected I would be challenged in a rigorous, accepting environment. I knew MSMS would provide the academic challenge I needed to prepare me for the world beyond high school and my hometown. What I didn’t know was how much of an impact the school would have on my character and self-discovery.
Many young people point to an event or experience that molded them into the person they are. For me, and many of my peers, MSMS was that experience.
Sabrina Moore, class of 2014 alumna and my emissary, described MSMS in “The Atlantic” as “the most diverse square mile in the state of Mississippi” because of its eclectic “academic interests, ethnicities, belief systems, aspirations and much more.”
Moore recognized, like other alumns, how MSMS challenges students to dispel stereotypes surrounding the Magnolia State. MSMS exposes its students to ideas and an environment they would not have encountered at their home schools. The school’s residential environment allows students to explore and understand all that makes up this “diverse square mile” through academic endeavors and by living and working together in a community where excellence is expected.
But this outstanding place where our state’s “best and brightest” learn to be better is threatened. As rising educational costs and a static budget force MSMS to accept fewer students, the school’s positive impact for Mississippi will be limited.
Ultimately, the school can save Mississippi from itself. Students need MSMS as much as MSMS needs students. Moreover, Mississippi needs MSMS.
India Yarborough is a 2015 graduate of Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science. She is a sophomore at Loyola University in New Orleans and interning this summer with The Dispatch. Her email address is [email protected]