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Local educator ignites passion for science and dance in VWSD students

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April Green lives her life by a quote from William Butler Yeats: “Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.” And she is lighting students’ fires everywhere from dance floors to classroom laboratories. 

Green, a native of Vicksburg, said she has been a dancer since the age of four, but her interest in science and her desire to teach didn’t manifest itself until her high school years at Vicksburg High School. 

“There were three teachers that truly touched me; Annie Straughter, Alice Jones, and Susan Czaika. They brought out the best in me and encouraged my passion for science. They also had a way of inspiring all of us in their classes and that’s what made me first think about becoming a teacher.” 

It was in high school as a member of the dance team Gator Girls that Green’s love of dance also thrived. 

“We (the Gator Girls) went to a dance camp and a few of us were chosen to dance at a New Orleans Saints game”, Green said. “It was at that game that I knew my future didn’t lie in just science and teaching. Dance would be a big part of it, too.” 

After graduating from VHS, Green enrolled at Alcorn State University and earned a bachelor’s degree in child psychology. She soon followed that with a master’s degree in education from Jackson State University. 

Green began her educational career at Vicksburg Junior High as an 8th grade science teacher. That took care of two of her passions, but Green couldn’t quite shake the feeling that something in her life was missing. 

Green said, “I knew I wanted to open a dance studio, but I was scared to take the risk. I went back and forth with myself for a few years. I questioned whether I’d have the necessary time to invest in it and whether it would be financially wise. But my family finally sat me down and was like, ‘Look. This is what you want to do and we believe in you. We support you, so go try.’” The April Green Dance Company opened in 2015. 

As the AGDC was getting off the ground, Green’s career in education was also on the rise. Green was offered the position of lead teacher at Sherman Avenue Elementary which she held for five years before being named lead teacher at Vicksburg High School for the 2019-2020 school year. 

As rewarding as those positions were, Green missed the classroom. “I just wanted to be in a place where I could do for students what inspirational teachers had done for me. I wanted to make science come alive for kids.” 

The opportunity to do just that presented itself when Green learned that the Career and Technical Education (CTE) school needed a teacher for their Biomedical classes. Green got the position. 

CTE is a program through which Hinds Community College Vicksburg-Warren Campus, through its Career and Technical Center, offers high school career and technical courses to the secondary students within the Vicksburg-Warren School District. 

“The students in the Biomedical program have the chance to take on real world challenges through case studies and real life experiences. They’re working with the same tools used by professionals in hospitals and labs. They’re taking real case studies and working together to develop solutions,” Green said. “It’s incredible to see high school students so on fire for new knowledge and skills. And to know that I’ve had a part in lighting that fire is beyond rewarding.” 

William Butler Yeats would likely agree.

Education

MS high school students encouraged to compete in cyber-security games

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(photo by councilcle from Pixabay)

Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves announced the state’s participation in CyberStart America Tuesday. CyberStart is an innovative, online cybersecurity talent search and competition sponsored by the National Cyber Scholarship Foundation and the SANS Institute.

Mississippi high school-aged students are encouraged to explore their aptitude for cybersecurity and computer science by participating in the program. Participants can win prizes, scholarships and recognition for their schools.

The CyberStart America program is a series of 100% online challenges that allow students to act as cyber protection agents, solving cybersecurity-related puzzles and exploring related topics such as code breaking, programming, networking and digital forensics. The program can be assigned as part of homework, can form the basis of an extracurricular club or students can just try it on their own.

Participating students and their teachers do not need knowledge or experience in information technology or cybersecurity to take part. Everything they need can be learned in the game. The program is free for schools and students, and all Mississippi students in grades nine through 12 are invited to participate. Building on the success of last year’s Girls Go CyberStart program, this year’s CyberStart Game is open to all high school students. Anyone who reaches level 5 in the game will qualify for the national competition to win scholarships. To encourage participation of young women and JROTC cadets, specific communities have been established for those groups, offering additional support and community-specific awards within the overall scholarship competition.

The National Cyber Scholarship Foundation anticipates awarding scholarships worth $2 million for use at any accredited college to 600 high-scoring students across the nation who participate in the competition in 2021. Students compete for state-specific and community-specific prizes, as well as national championship status. There will also be incentives for Mississippi high schools to encourage more students to reach the qualifying level in the CyberStart game, including exclusive access to additional cybersecurity education resources and recognized cyber skills mastery badges for their students.

“The CyberStart America Program is an excellent and fun opportunity for students who think they may be interested in cybersecurity to determine if they have the passion and aptitude to pursue it as a career,” Reeves said in a statement. “Mississippi high schools have competed and placed well in this competition the last several years, and I cannot wait to see our students go even further.”

Find complete details about the program at www.cyberstartamerica.org. High school students can register for the program and invite their friends to join them through Feb. 28, 2021. Students will be informed if they qualify for the CyberStart National Scholarship Challenge Round as soon as they have achieved sufficient progress, but they can continue playing and learning to build skills that will be useful to them in the Nationals. To see the types of challenges students will face in the games, visit https://go.cyberstart.com.

“This program supports computer science education and its growing importance in our schools and our economy,” said Dr. Carey Wright, state superintendent of education. “I encourage all Mississippi high schools to share the CyberStart America opportunity with their students and to support their participation. There is no limit to what students can achieve when they are provided with challenging opportunities that give them the chance to excel.”

In a pilot test of CyberStart America targeted to young women during the last school year, 146 students from Mississippi high schools participated and seven succeeded in reaching the national finals. With CyberStart America now open to boys as well as girls, Mississippi hopes to triple the number of students participating and reaching the scholarship round.

“Cybersecurity is the new frontier for protecting infrastructure, personal information and financial data,” said Lora Hunter, interim director of the Mississippi Office of Homeland Security and state coordinator for the program. “The Mississippi Office of Homeland Security deals with these critical areas every day. Mississippi needs a pipeline of talented cybersecurity professionals to help protect our way of life.”

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Education

MS treasurer announces Black Friday giveaway to encourage saving for college

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Monday, Mississippi Treasurer David McRae announced a $1,000 Black Friday giveaway to encourage Mississippians to begin saving for college.

College Savings Mississippi, a division of the State Treasury, will be giving one lucky family a $1,000 scholarship when they open a Mississippi Affordable College Savings account between Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“With Black Friday as the traditional kick-off to holiday shopping, we’re hoping to remind Mississippians that the gift of a college degree is a gift that will keep on giving,” McRae said in a news release. “Whether you’re a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle, consider making a contribution to a loved one’s college savings plan this gift-giving season.”

A tax-advantaged MACS account, which can be opened for as little as $25, offers families maximum flexibility. The money contributed to this account can be used for tuition, books, supplies, and certain room and board expenses, as well as elementary and secondary tuition expenses for younger students.

For the Black Friday Giveaway, any family who opens a new MACS account between Nov. 27 (“Black Friday”) and Nov. 30 (“Cyber Monday”) will be entered to win the $1,000 scholarship. The winner will be drawn at random.

To open an account, visit Treasury.MS.gov/CollegeSavings. For complete rules for the giveaway, download this document (PDF).

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Education

Project SEARCH provides internships for students with disabilities in Vicksburg

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The Project SEARCH interns at Merit Health River Region are eager to learn new skills. (photo courtesy MHRR)

A national program designed to help students with disabilities obtain competitive community-based employment has expanded to Vicksburg through a strategic collaboration of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services, Merit Health River Region and the Vicksburg Warren School District.

Project SEARCH Merit Health River Region is offering up to 12 students from the Vicksburg Warren School District an eight-month internship position during the 2020-21 school year. This opportunity allows the students to work on employability and functional skills in several areas including team building, technology, communication, job search skills and money management.

“We are proud to partner with the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services and the Vicksburg Warren School District to provide skill development opportunities for the Project SEARCH interns,” said Ben Richaud, CEO of Merit Health River Region, in a statement. “The interns have been a great addition to our team, and I’m impressed by their enthusiasm and work ethic.”

“Our District’s vision is to graduate all students college, career and life prepared — and all means all,” said Chad Shealy, superintendent of the Vicksburg Warren School District. “We are excited about this opportunity and appreciate the partnership with Merit Health River Region and Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. Providing real-life work experiences for our students with disabilities will help build the foundation these kids need to be successful in the workplace. Project SEARCH positively changes the trajectory for these children by giving them a head-start on a meaningful career that they want and deserve.”

“Our mission as a state agency is perfectly matched with that of Project SEARCH,” said Chris Howard, executive director of the Mississippi Department of Rehabilitation Services. “Our goal is for these interns to gain full-time employment with benefits after they have completed this program. Our partnership with Merit Health River Region and the Vicksburg Warren School District is making this goal possible for these students.”

Project SEARCH first came to Mississippi in 2015 and now includes 11 sites across the state.

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