More High Schools in Mississippi

This week I had my last three high school meetings. Monday morning, I went to Oak Grove High school in Hattiesburg (pronounced hat-is-burg by the locals). Once again, the administration didn’t seem aware of my presence and sent me straight to the cafeteria. I roamed around the lunchroom introducing myself to teachers asking them to send students my way. While they were friendly, many of them never left their perches at the corners of the room. Finally, I made my way back to the counselor’s office. After I explained a bit more about myself and Macalester, the guidance counselors seemed very interested. We sat in his office talking about the advantage of liberal arts education and students he thought might be a good fit. He even called in two students for me to talk to. I was thrilled, and spent almost the entire afternoon with the counselor.

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The next day, Tuesday, was another story entirely. I headed to Bay high school on the gulf coast at 10:30 for a 10:56 lunch start time (but really, who eats that early?) However, I ended up walking right into some sort of voting area. Apparently, it was the day for mayoral elections in Bay Saint Louis! I was asked for my ID, and thinking this was a school security measure, I handed my Californian drivers license to them. Startled, they told me that only locals can vote in this election and asked me why I was trying to vote. I quickly attempted to clarify that I was not, in fact, trying to vote, but rather trying to find the high school. Laughing, the woman told me I was a block away from the high school; this was the local church—and it was open for elections. I was embarrassed; not only was I in the wrong place, but I had come across as trying to vote in an election far beyond my region. By the time I made it to the high school, lunch had just begun. This was also the first school they had set me up outside. I pulled out my remaining Macalester resources (they were quickly depleting) and sat outside. Ten minutes later, sweat was pouring off my face (sorry if this is too graphic). Kids approached me to talk about Macalester and all I could think about was that I felt like I was in a swimming pool. The worst part was, none of them seemed the least bit hot! To be clear, it was over 90 degrees with tons of humidity and no shade. After toughing it out for two lunches, I met some interesting kids, and called it a day for a long drive back to Jackson.

Finally, this morning, I had planned to speak with students at St. Andrew’s Episcopal School in Jackson. However, due to a crazy storm, the power had gone out at the school. And though the counselor confirmed she would be there, no students were in school today. In one of my easiest meetings, I talked about Macalester and got a tour of St. Andrews high school. The counselor seemed really excited about Mac, boasting that St. Andrews has the most students go out of state of any high school in Mississippi and were always looking for more options to present to students.

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Then, on a recommendation from the college counselor at St. Andrews, I headed to a local non-profit: Education Services Get2College. The organization runs workshops, meets with students individually and in groups, trains college counselors, and more in order to assist Mississippians in matriculating and graduating from college. Though they didn’t know many students who would be interested in Mac, it was great to scope out some local college access work. They were familiar with the organization I will be working with in the Mississippi delta, and had even collaborated on some joint college access efforts.

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