Students Participate in Monthlong UM Enrichment Program

M Partner initiative brings youth summer program to Charleston

Middle school students from Charleston visited the University of Mississippi’s Oxford campus during a field trip as part of the second annual Entrepreneurial Learning Center at the Charleston Day Center. Photo by Kevin Bain/Ole Miss Digital Imaging Services

OXFORD, Miss. – Middle school students in Charleston participated in the second annual Entrepreneurial Learning Center at the Charleston Day Center this June.

The monthlong enrichment program involved University of Mississippi faculty, staff and students engaging with students around topics of entrepreneurship, health and wellness, writing, data and demographics, and art.

This year, the program was affiliated with M Partner, Chancellor Jeffrey S. Vitter’s new community engagement initiative that seeks to enhance quality of life in Mississippi communities.

The program came to life through a partnership between the university’s McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement and the National Charleston Day Organization. It is supported by a gift from the Robert M. Hearin Support Foundation.

“We are grateful to the National Charleston Day Organization and the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center for partnering with us two years in a row to co-create a summer program for youth in Charleston,” said J.R. Love, project manager at the McLean Institute.

Students also took a field trip to UM’s Oxford campus. 

Gwen DaileyCharleston chapter parliamentarian with the National Charleston Day Organization (NCDO), said there is definitely a need for this type of setting in Charleston and believes that it should be a part of regular school curriculum.

“After a two-year engagement, I think it is safe to say that the students involved came away with a heightened sense of independence and how to be ‘their own boss,’” Dailey said. “Our boys and girls are definitely more tuned in to becoming steadfast in their life missions.” 

One student in particular feels more strongly than before that a STEM research facility he would own and operate could be placed in Charleston, Dailey said.

Two UM students who are a part of the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED, Initiative at the McLean Institute helped coordinate the event with the National Charleston Day Organization, an AmeriCorps summer associate VISTA member who is also a Charleston High School alumna and student at Northwest Community College, and a Charleston High School National Honor Society student.

Facilitating this program was a highlight of the summer for UM student Kendall Walker.

“This program is going straight to the source in regards to affecting the future of Mississippi,” Walker said. “These children are the next generation of voters, entrepreneurs and so much more. This program gives them the opportunity to see all the good that they can do and accomplish right here in their home state.”

The McLean Institute has invested $5,000 to operate the ELC in Charleston.

“This funding is relatively small compared to the significant student impact for both Charleston middle school students and UM students,” said Albert Nylander, director of the McLean Institute. “The University of Mississippi is committed to partnering with communities throughout Mississippi to collectively move education forward.”

Local Charleston organizations that have taken part in the ELC include the James C. Kennedy Wellness Center, Regions Bank and The Diabetic Shoppe.

Other organizations that will be taking part in the center’s programs include Mississippi Development Authority-The Entrepreneur Center, NoTime2Cook, Oxford-Lafayette Economic Development Foundation, Mississippi Main Street Association and Mississippi Small Business Development Center.

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M Partner is a new community engagement effort that seeks to improve quality of life in Mississippi communities. This initiative offers a framework through which community and university representatives can cultivate mutually beneficial partnerships that will lead to the co-creation of knowledge and ideas to enhance community well-being. M Partner is one of the pillars outlined in the university’s comprehensive strategic plan, Flagship Forward, and underpins institutional efforts to promote healthy and vibrant communities. For more information, visit http://mpartner.olemiss.edu/.