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River City Early College celebrates being named first Lighthouse high school



River City Early College celebrated becoming the first Lighthouse certified high school in the world on March 6, 2020. (photos and videos by David Day)

The atmosphere at River City Early College today was all party and pep rally as the Vicksburg Warren School District celebrated the school being named as the first high school in the world to be named a Leader in Me Lighthouse School.

“This moment means a lot to us because not many people know what River City Early College really is,” said Emily Harris, a student at River City Early College. “To be able to have this opportunity to express leadership in our community shows the state of Mississippi and our nation who we are.”

A lighthouse is a tower containing a beacon light to guide ships at sea, but lighthouse has a new and different meaning in the Vicksburg Warren School District. The students at the five Lighthouse Schools in the district shine a beacon of light within themselves to be great leaders in the community now, in hopes of carrying their leadership skills throughout their life and career.

The celebration had everyone out of their seats.

“This is a big, big deal because it takes those principles of Leader in Me all the way in schools from a pre-k, kindergarten level up to the high school students who are about to be leaders in our community as adults,” said Kelle Barfield, Warren County District 5 supervisor and Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce board member.

The Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce-led initiative was put into place after the chamber’s former director learned about Franklin Covey Leadership Training.

“We knew back in 2010 at the chamber we needed to implement something to further Vicksburg, and we thought, ‘What better way to do that than to do something in education,’” said Brother Blackburn, former president of the Vicksburg Warren Chamber of Commerce. “It just so happened that our director at the time, Christi Kilroy, went and heard about Leader in Me and came back so excited. We knew then that this was something for us to act on.”

Members of the community proudly looked on. Front row, left to right: Brother Blackburn, Bob Morrison, Corrine Morrison, Vicksburg-Warren District 2 School Board member Alonzo Stevens. Behind them sits Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership.

With Blackburn’s vision, he knew he had to have the funds to implement such a large project.

“I brought this guy in,” Blackburn said, pointing to business owner Bob Morrison. “Together, we went to lots of businesses throughout Vicksburg to see if they would be interested in partnering with us and bring this program to Vicksburg, and not one business said no.

Leader in Me rolled out as a part of The Vicksburg Warren School District curriculum for elementary schools during the 2012-2013 school year. The effects were so compelling the program expanded to VWSD local junior highs and high schools.

Pablo Diaz, president and CEO of the Vicksburg Warren Economic Development Partnership, said an accomplishment like this is what businesses look for in a community before making an investment.

“This is going to be an easier sale, if you will, in terms of the quality of workforce that we are preparing for employers,” Diaz said.

River City Early College joins Redwood, Bovina and Bowmar elementary schools and the Academy of Innovation middle school as Lighthouse schools in the Vicksburg Warren School District.

The Big Blue Band got into the action at today’s celebration at River City Early College.

What is a Leader in Me Lighthouse school?

The Lighthouse Certification is a highly regarded standard set by FranklinCovey that is attainable by every Leader in Me school. As it is a significant benchmark, applying for this certification typically occurs four to five years after a school begins the Leader in Me process.

The certification is evidence that schools have produced outstanding results in school and student outcomes, by implementing the process with fidelity and excellence. It is also because of the extraordinary impact that the schools may be having on staff, students, parents and the greater community.

Schools earn Lighthouse certification by meeting the following criteria:

  • The principal, school administration and staff engage in ongoing learning and develop as leaders, while championing leadership for the school.
  • Leadership principles are effectively taught to all students through direct lessons, integrated approaches, and staff modeling. Students can think critically about and apply leadership principles.
  • Families and the school partner together in learning about the 7 Habits and leadership principles through effective communication and mutual respect.
  • The school community can see leadership in the physical environment, hear leadership through the common language of the 7 Habits, and feel leadership through a culture of caring, relationships and affirmation.
  • Leadership is shared with students through a variety of leadership roles, and student voice leads to innovations within the school.
  • Schoolwide, classroom, family and community leadership events provide authentic environments to celebrate leadership, build culture and allow students to practice leadership skills.
  • The school utilizes the 4 Disciplines of Execution process to identify and track progress toward the high priority goals of the school, classroom and staff members.
  • Students lead their own learning with the skills to assess their needs, set appropriate goals and carry out action plans. They track progress toward goals in Leadership Notebooks and share these notebooks with adults in student-led conferences.
  • Teacher planning and reflection, trusting relationships and student-led learning combine to create environments for highly engaged learning.

Leader in Me schools maintain their Lighthouse Certification for two years and continue to foster their growth in exemplifying a leadership culture. At the end of the two years, schools may recertify to maintain their Lighthouse Certification.

Learn more at the Leader In Me website.



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Alcorn State earns award for high rate of graduating student athletes



(photo courtesy ASU)

Alcorn State University received the David M. Halbrook (traveling) trophy in the men’s division from the Mississippi Association of Colleges and Universities for its achievement in posting the highest percentage of graduating student athletes, marking the third consecutive year it has earned the distinction.

“It is an honor for Alcorn to receive the David M. Halbrook (traveling) Trophy award for the third consecutive year,” said Derek Horne, director of athletics, in a statement. “Alcorn strives to help all our student-athletes succeed athletically and academically, setting them up for future success in their respective fields.”

In addition to the Halbrook trophy, student-athletes Troymain Crosby and Jada Hargrove were recognized with the David M. Halbrook Certificate Award for Academic Achievement Among Athletes. The individual honors are given to student athletes who excel in academics, leadership and service.

“Receiving the Halbrook Award is an outstanding recognition of the hard work and efforts of Alcorn’s student-athletes,” said Cyrus Russ, assistant vice president for athletic compliance and academic services. “This recognition represents the dedicated efforts of Alcorn’s faculty, academic counselors and staff that work so diligently to ensure student success.”

The Halbrook Award for Academic Achievement Among Athletes was established in 1984 as a result of the passage of House Concurrent Resolution No. 88. The awards program is made possible through endowments from former Rep. David M. Halbrook of Belzoni, Mississippi, and his brothers, John C. and James G. Halbrook of Belzoni, and J. A. Halbrook of Beaumont, Texas, in honor of their parents, John C. and Ernestine McCall Halbrook.

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



(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 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

“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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MS treasurer announces Black Friday giveaway to encourage saving for college



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 For complete rules for the giveaway, download this document (PDF).

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