High School Seniors Return for MOST Conference Reunion

Students reflect on summer event, anticipate future enrollment

Mississippi high school seniors engage in a playful round of the Internet game Kahoot! during the 2022 MOST Conference reunion. The reunion helps participants reconnect with peers and MOST mentors, make new friends and continue conversations started over the summer. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Before Dre Patton earned two degrees from the University of Mississippi and was named to the Ole Miss Hall of Fame, he was an attendee at the 2015 Mississippi Outreach to Scholastic Talent, or MOST, conference and a 2019 MOST mentor.

Patton told high school seniors who participated in the 2022 MOST conferences last summer that the experience and the friendships that came with his MOST experience are why he chose to enroll at Ole Miss the following year.

“MOST changed my world forever,” said the Senatobia native and senior data analyst for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis. “It’s truly an honor to give back to a program that has given so much to me.”

The 2022 MOST participants returned to campus for a reunion Tuesday (Nov. 15), to reconnect with other participants and MOST mentors, make new friends and advance on the conversations started over the summer.

MOST is designed to recruit, retain and graduate prospective students from Mississippi. The program provides opportunities for rising high school seniors to experience community, mentoring and personal development alongside academic success.

Capitalizing on the theme “Legends in the Making,” Patton encouraged participants to be intentional about their futures and to make good decisions.

“Whether you realize it or not, you’re already creating a legacy for yourselves,” he said. “Put in the work and I guarantee you that success will follow. You and your journey are more important to this world than you can ever imagine.”

Patton shared how he began building his own legacy at the university.

“I did whatever I had to do to be the best,” said Patton, who was the valedictorian of his graduating class in 2016. “Once I came to Ole Miss, I kept putting my best effort forward.

“As a result, I earned my bachelor’s degree in integrated marketing communications in 2020, my MBA in 2021 and was inducted into the Ole Miss Hall of Fame.”

Over the course of the reunion, visiting students were reconnected with their MOST mentors, some who were themselves MOST participants. Mentors facilitated networking activities with the seniors, took them on Residential College tours and introduced them to academic advisers who provided information and curriculum guides for their chosen majors.

Karrye Tynes, MOST Conference coordinator, welcomes high school seniors who returned to campus for the fall reunion. Two sessions of the conference were held during the summer. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

Participants reflected on their experiences at the summer conferences and whether they plan on enrolling at UM next fall.

“I really liked how inclusive everything was at the conference,” said Darion Hunter, of Madison. “It also gave me a chance to see what campus life is like. I most definitely plan on coming to Ole Miss next year and majoring in psychology.”

McKenzie Stanley said her most memorable experience at last summer’s event was the talent show.

“I got up and began to sing ‘Hours by Hours,'” the Madison native said. “As soon as the song began, everyone in the room began singing along with me. It was wonderful. I felt like Beyonce.”

Student leaders fielded questions from seniors about the experience of being a Black student at the university and shared information about on-campus living, academic programs, scholarships and student organizations.

“The reunion gives me an opportunity to see that participants are serious about their interest in the University of Mississippi,” said Karrye Tynes, assistant director for access and recruiting initiatives, MOST coordinator and a former MOST participant and mentor. “I’m also amazed at the growth that I witness in the high school seniors from summer conference to reunion day: personalities are blossoming and students are very expressive and eager to learn all that UM has to offer.”

Trinity Cunningham and Matthew McCray, both from Madison, said they made many new friends during the networking sessions at the conference.

“The atmosphere was very welcoming,” said Cunningham, who plans to major in nursing. “That’s what made me want to come back for this reunion.”

A future broadcast journalism major, McCray said the information provided by mentors had a profound impact.

“I know that when I come here as a student next fall, I will already have a support system that will help me reach my goals,” he said.

Already planning the 2023 MOST conference, Tynes said next year will again feature two conferences in an effort to provide opportunities for even more students.

“We want you here,” she said. “I am a product of MOST, and MOST was the reason I chose to attend the University of Mississippi. I am proof of the impact that this program has.

“I am proof that the University of Mississippi is THE place for you to thrive, as a student and beyond.”