The Mississippi Rural Education Consortium held its second meeting on November 8 at the Mount Olive Ministries’ facilities located at 302 North Main Street in Mount Olive. Bringing together representatives from the Mississippi Department of Education, the University of Mississippi, Jackson State University, Jones County Junior College, the University of Southern Mississippi, local merchants and citizens, as well as Tony Duckworth, president of Mount Olive Ministries and Ray Holt, robotics instructor, the group discussed problems common to rural education and sought to find ways that each represented group could support education in Mount Olive. Noting that Mississippi ranks 50th in education, Ms Virginia Jackson of the R.E.A.L. Christian Foundation stated, “Representation from the whole community is needed to change education in this town and state.”
Data shows that math is the weakest link in U.S. schools. The Mount Olive Ministries’ Robotic Program is seeking to remedy this in Covington County by engaging students in math and technology while working with robots. Currently there are two robotic classes in Mount Olive and one in Mendenhall. These classes meet on Saturdays giving students hands-on experience with technology and algebra as they design, build, program and activate their own robot. Our Mount Olive students in the Robotic Program will compete with other students across the nation in local, state and national robotic competitions in the spring. Students who perform well in the competitions will be awarded college scholarships.
At the meeting, the university representatives expressed concern that a decreasing number of students enter college to seek degrees in math and science. “We (universities) have to feed the pipe-line. If we want more students coming into engineering, we need to put more into rural education,” said Dr. John O’Haver, University of Mississippi professor of chemical engineering. The chain of education from elementary to junior high to high school and into college must have a common goal of helping students succeed.
A partnership model was developed to show how each stakeholder will support rural education. This broad model is the tool through which rural education will be enhanced causing more students to be successful, to enter college and to seek careers in math, science and technology. Attending the meeting were Tony Duckworth, Ray Holt, Dr. John O’Haver and Dr. Alice Stiemle of the University of Mississippi, Dan Garcia of the University of Southern Mississippi, Dr. Byron Williams of Jackson State University, Jason Dedwylder of Jones County Junior College, Virginia Chase and Linda Jackson of the R.E.A.L Christian Foundation, Janet Kelley and Nancy Bagwell who are concerned citizens, Clint Perkins with the Magee Walmart, and Jerry Russ of the Mississippi Department of Education. For more information on the Mississippi Rural Education Consortium or in the robotics classes, please contact Tony Duckworth at tonycduckworth[at]bellsouth[dot]net or 601-797-4377.