3 On the Road: Mississippi School of the Arts
BROOKHAVEN, MS (Mississippi News Now) - There are two specialized high schools in Mississippi -- one being the School of Math and Science in Columbus and the other being the School of the Arts in Brookhaven -- where high school juniors and seniors not only expand their academic knowledge, but also expand their talents.
"Well our students come from all over the state. We have about 50 counties represented in any given year. We have six disciplines of study. We have dance, literary arts, which is creative writing. We have media which is film making. Theatre, visual art and vocal music. And our students are 11th and 12th grade. They audition in their 10th grade year to be admitted," explained Suzanne Hirsch, Executive Director of the Mississippi School of the Arts. "And students who have the potential, even if they haven't had the training, can have the opportunity to make the arts accessible in their lives."
Although the Mississippi School of the Arts isn't but about 15 years old, the buildings on campus look a lot older.
That's because they are.
They were once Whitworth College, which started as an all-girls school in the 1850s and closed in the 1960s and then the buildings sat with sporadic uses until the School of the Arts was founded in 1999.
A state high school of the arts was an idea tossed around for a while back in the 90s.
One of the elements that brought it together, former First Lady Pat Fordice was touring the old buildings of Whitworth College and made a remark that this would make a great school of the arts.
And long story short, it became one.
So, what is the school of the arts all about?
Well, high school sophomores all over the state audition, in visual arts, writing, dance, singing, acting, and media. They are chosen to come here their junior and senior years because of their potential, not necessarily their level of training.
Some of the students here have been taking lessons in their area all of their lives. Some never had a lesson until they got here.
And because they WANT to be here, it makes life somewhat easier for Principal Debra Henderson.
"The students are very much motivated here to succeed."
"I've seen it change lives in more ways than one," said Jennifer Jackson, Coordinator of school advancement. "To be the school we are and to have 55 seniors graduate last year and get $10.2 million in college scholarship offers and also to be the number three ACT score in the entire state of Mississippi, we're doing something right here."
"There's about 50 to 60 public events each year that are free that our students create and offer to the community which is an exciting benefit for the quality of life to live here in our community," added Hirsch. "But also this campus provides and economic impact to Brookhaven. We have about 30 full-time people. There's about 30 part time people. So we see a real ownership from our community in wanting to embrace what we have."
Intense training in acting, dancing, singing, visual arts, writing, and media art, movie making and the like as well as the regular academics of high school probably makes this not a school for every high school junior and senior in Mississippi. But for those who DO belong here, it's an opportunity provided by our state that not every state offers.
Copyright 2018 MSNewsNow. All rights reserved.