MSU Choctaw Preview Day welcomes prospective students
STARKVILLE, Miss. -- Fourteen Choctaw Central and Neshoba Central high school students got a look at college life April 26 when a 4-H career prep program took them to preview day at Mississippi State University.
The young people met with MSU students who are fellow members of the Mississippi Band of Choctaw Indians, or MBCI. They also examined one of the EcoCAR club’s hybrid vehicles, heard about the admissions process and were given an idea of what the academic experience will be like.
The students were hosted by the MSU Extension Service, who offered the 10-week Build Your Future program. The program is part of the strengthened partnership between the Choctaw Tribe and MSU, funded by a U.S. Department of Agriculture “New Beginning for Tribal Students” grant with an MSU and MSU Extension Service match.
The Build Your Future program focuses on college and career readiness. A highlight of the program was the Choctaw Preview Day, which brought the group to campus.
“The program helped me see there are a lot of opportunities available, and college helps make them possible,” said ninth-grader Tehya Ketcher.
Tia Grisham, MBCI Youth Outreach Program director, said the partnership between MSU and the Choctaw Tribe is offering career planning and internships. She said MSU already has a history of welcoming indigenous peoples and offering a place for them to thrive and find community.
“Tribal students have formed great friendships here among fellow student and among faculty,” Grisham said. “I had no hesitation in bringing you here today.”
Ra’Sheda Forbes, MSU vice president for access, diversity and inclusion, said the Indigenous Students and Allies Association is a place for students to find community. MSU’s student body currently includes a diverse population from across the state, nation and world, with a small percentage identified as American Indian or Alaskan Native.
“We want to create an environment at Mississippi State that is inclusive and supportive for our students, including our indigenous and tribal students,” Forbes said. “We are working to increase the diversity of our student body.”
Forbes told the young people that MSU offers a wide variety of activities to its students, and the university is a place to forge relationships, become engaged and create memories.
“We see ourselves as partners with you at Mississippi State,” she said. “As you are here today, ask the questions about the things we have and the things we don’t have, because we want to support you.”
The preview day and implementation of the Build Your Future program is part of the growing partnership between the MSU Extension Center for 4-H Youth Development, MCBI, MBCI Youth Opportunity Program, the MSU Office of Institutional Diversity and Inclusion, Holmes Cultural Diversity Center, Indigenous Students Alliance and Allies, and MSU departments of anthropology, sociology, and agricultural economics.
Kaiti Ford, MBCI Extension agent, said the 4-H Build Your Future program brings awareness to key components that will help the MBCI students be successful in their future endeavors. The college preview day allowed them a glimpse into the life they could have at MSU.
“The students learned about the array of college majors offered by MSU, and it was great to see the students engage and ask questions to faculty and staff,” Ford said. “When a high school student thinks about a university like Mississippi State, they can get overwhelmed by the size of the campus, the size of classes and the life of a college campus. It was important for the Choctaw students to see that MSU is nothing to be afraid of or overwhelmed by.”
MSU intends to designate an area for stickball, and the preview day ended with a stickball practice session at The Junction in the heart of the MSU campus.
“Stickball is part of Choctaw culture,” Ford said. “The installation and incorporation of a stickball field shows that MSU is welcoming to all students, no matter their cultural background.”
MSU Extension is developing a family-focused college readiness program and delivering workshops focused on college-readiness skills on MBCI Tribal lands and the MSU campus. Another course for MSU faculty and student advisors will seek to improve their advising of Choctaw students.