Planning for the Future in Desoto County

The Best Laid Plans

Samantha Holland, North Mississippi Outreach and Program Coordinator.

Have y’all ever had a week in which absolutely nothing went as planned? Let me just say, that was exactly how this week started out for me. I had great plans scheduled: presentations to three Ole Miss freshman classes, a presentation to a local high school class, and multiple meetings with really great community members in DeSoto County. Sounds productive, doesn’t it? Two of our guys, Josh and Jehrod, even drove up from Jackson to come with me to two of those freshman classes and the high school class, as well as to interview/meet with some of the community members I mentioned earlier.

Monday morning was going to start bright and early for us, with our first class meeting at 10:00 on the Ole Miss campus. At 9:45, the teacher texted me to let me know she had food poisoning and was heading home. We salvaged the day though, laying out a game plan for the next two days and catching up on other work.

Tuesday morning found us on the road from Oxford to DeSoto, to head to the high school. About halfway there, I received a phone call from that teacher (I bet y’all know where this is headed), saying that he was so sorry but he had forgotten about me and all but two of his students were on a field trip. Luckily, we also had plans to be in attendance at the DeSoto County career fair that day so we headed straight there. That was where things became really fun (no, seriously, it was so much fun)!

Out of the Mouths of Babes

The entire DeSoto County eighth grade population was in attendance when we pulled up to the Landers Center. Josh asked Jehrod to find a small group of students who were willing to talk with us about education and their life goals. This group of students- oh, my heart. There were six of them, all from the same middle school, and they just opened up to us so completely. I had the time of my life, talking about their public school experiences, their views on our political climate, and their dreams and goals in life. All six were raw, genuine, brilliant in their own ways, and full of hope for our future as a county, a state, and a nation.

A few things stood out clearly from our conversations with this group of eighth graders: one spoke about her past education from a private school and how much she appreciated the diversity amongst students, the opportunities afforded, and the increase in learning styles she was given at a public school versus the lack of diversity, opportunity, and learning she experienced at her private school.



Another talked about his dream of becoming a marine biologist and the role his incredibly supportive science teacher has played in making sure he is given the chances, in middle school, to begin preparing for that career goal.

Two of the students spoke about how, even though they are young, they understand the importance of being civically involved. They talked about trying to discern actual news from “fake news” and about how concerned they are with how easy it is to lie to people on social media. One talked about how important it is to her that she has supportive teachers, because even though she might not be the smartest kid in school, she knows that she can do anything with their support.

Another student told us that he wants to be a teacher and because of that goal, he knows he needs a good education. He said, “How can I teach my future students if I’m not learning these things now?”

I truly cannot wait for y’all to see these quick little interviews with these students. If they are our future (and they are), then it is bright and filled with hope, sincerity, and vibrancy. I could talk about them for hours.

The Best is Yet to Come

Thankfully, after a rocky start, the rest of the week went as smoothly as possible. I spoke to two classes at Ole Miss, each consisting of about twenty-five college freshmen. I do not know how many of y’all have experience dealing with a classroom full of mostly out of town 18/19 year olds, but they are not always the easiest to get to open up and talk. I did learn, very quickly, that the millennial generation covers a large age range and we judge our quality of life based on very different things.

As an elder millennial (I am close to the top of the generation), my concerns are fairly far away from the concerns of the youngest of our generation. These freshmen definitely taught me a great deal about the aspects of life that are currently important to them and I am working to create a presentation that will combine those concerns into the five core values of Ours to Change.

We have our work cut out for us, creating a sense of normalcy around civic engagement for the millennial (and younger) population in Mississippi, but the desire and the potential are right there… right around the corner. Y’all, there is a want and a need that is almost palpable when I talk to some of these students.

I truly believe that once that is harnessed and they are given the resources, opportunities, and tools that they are searching for, our state is going to explode with potential. I would love for each of you reading this to join me on this journey. Find us and like us on social media (Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram). Email, call, text me and find out how you can be a part of this. Follow us on social. Together, we will move Mississippi into the spotlight that our state deserves.