Alliance fosters ‘New Beginning’ for Choctaw students


STARKVILLE — The Mis­sissippi State University Extension Service has been awarded a grant that will help educate, recruit and retain tribal students from the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians (MBCI) to succeed in college and in a career.

MSU and the Choctaw Division of Education signed a memorandum of understanding designed to strengthen partnerships between the university and the Choctaw tribe. The memorandum is asso­ciated with the grant, “New Beginning for Tribal Students,” awarded by the U.S. Department of Agri­culture.

The $500,000 grant in­cludes a $250,000 match from MSU and MSU Exten­sion. As the administrating organization of the state’s 4-H program, MSU Exten­sion will offer a college and career readiness program called Build Your Future to MBCI high school stu­dents.

MSU Extension is part­nering with the Center for 4-H Youth Development, MBCI Youth Opportunity Program, MBCI, MSU Of­fice of Institutional Diver­sity and Inclusion, Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, Indigenous Students Al­liance and Allies (ISAA), and MSU departments of anthropology, sociology, and agricultural econom­ics.

MBCI spokesperson Tia Grisham said Build Your Future will help students understand education re­quirements needed to enter their chosen career, financial requirements needed to take the re­quired courses and how to set goals for the future.

“This curriculum gives students real-life informa­tion about career choices, pathways to success and how choices affect their lives,” Grisham said. “To me, Build Your Future can help students understand the hard work and dedica­tion that is needed to be successful in college. It teaches students that they can achieve their career and life goals if they work hard for what they want.”

The Extension 4-H Cen­ter for Youth Development offers Choctaw students many opportunities to en­gage in programs that help with life skills. MSU Extension established a mentor program, Choctaw Agriculture Professionals Program for Students, in 2016. The program intro­duces Choctaw students to agricultural careers and majors offered at MSU that prepare college students for those careers.

Now an MSU Extension agent in Winston County, Jim McAdory helped start Choctaw Agriculture Pro­fessionals Program for Stu­dents when he was the Extension agent for MBCI before passing it along to current MBCI agent Kaiti Ford.

“This project is an out­come of the Choctaw Agri­culture Professionals Program for Students pro­gram and relies very heav­ily on the relationships that were built during that time,” said Mariah Mor­gan, assistant Extension professor in the MSU Cen­ter for Technology Out­reach. “Youth that participate in Build Your Future will be invited to a Choctaw Preview Day at MSU hosted by MSU Ex­tension and MSU Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion.”

MSU Extension will also develop a family-focused college readiness program and deliver workshops fo­cused on college-readiness skills at the MBCI and MSU campuses. Another course for MSU faculty and stu­dent advisors will be es­tablished to improve their advising of Choctaw stu­dents.

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