In just a few short days, students will be taking the all-important step of their commencement from high school into their future.
For some, it is a choice to start working. For others, it is a choice to join the military. Technical or trade school and community college experience await others, and many will head off to a four-year college career before their work careers begin.
As the students enter and walk the stage to receive their high school diplomas and congratulatory statements from their school administrators and teachers, their future studies await and it will be an expensive proposition. A vast array of means for the cost of education will help them, from grants and loans, to scholarships of all types.
Scholarship money for the Class of 2019 in DeSoto County is quite significant, according to the county public school district, significant enough that it will again set a record of more than $97.66 million, said DCS Supt. Cory Uselton.
“This scholarship total is an incredible accomplishment by our seniors,” Uselton said. “They have been so successful throughout their career with DeSoto County Schools, and they will definitely continue that success after graduation. I also want to thank our counselors, administrators, and teachers for assisting our seniors with their scholarship applications.”
We all hear about the “full rides” for athletes earning scholarship money, and certainly many of the graduates-to-be are having their education funded through academic scholarships.
There are other ways of getting those precious education dollars, however. In one case, they sang for it.
Five senior members of the highly-respected vocal music program at Horn Lake High School are receiving vocal music scholarship money totaling nearly $200,000 between the five, just in choir money alone, said instructor Holly Beck.
Athletes and their families hold special events to celebrate the athlete signing a scholarship offer to compete in college. So, Beck decided it was important her students had the same opportunity. This week, she held a “signing ceremony” of her own for the quintet of musicians.
The group includes four students who accepted scholarships to Mississippi State. They were Joseph Mullins, a bass; Keaveon Beavers, a tenor; Aireal Conley, a soprano; and alto Elexxus Richardson. The other signee, soprano Jada Broughton, will attend Ole Miss and sing in their vocal program.
“We know that athletics get all kinds of support and encouragement and their scholarships are great, but there’s also other ways that the students can earn that scholarship money,” Beck said. “We just wanted to showcase these five seniors for the hard work that they’ve put in over the past four years and that it does pay off in getting that nice scholarship.”
The vocal music money helps all five with their future schooling, but in the case of Beavers, his entrance into the National Guard will help cover his education, and for Mullins, his 31 ACT score will certainly entice the school to cover him academically.
“It’s really neat to see that they are getting all of these opportunities,” Beck said. “Everyone can sing and that ability and that love can result in some amazing things, as well. In this case, it is money for school.”
It was the third year the Horn Lake choir program held a signing ceremony, replete with signing papers and photos being taken. It marked the end of another successful year for a choir that has toured New York state and sang in St. Patrick’s Cathedral with their Southaven counterparts. The year has also been successful for them in competition, Beck said.
“We did really well this year at the Bluff City Choral Festival, where they won second place in performance, but they also won first place in community service,” she said. “I love that because that means that we really are working hard and I’m trying to implement music but also character.”
Part of the community service has been singing each month for residents at the Landmark for DeSoto facility in Horn Lake.
Beck said she looks forward to seeing what her seniors can now accomplish, both musically and away from the concert stage.
“It makes my heart happy when they get out of high school and they have that love and they keep going, but if I can speak into their character, I can help them see that there's more in the world and there’s so much they can do,” Beck said.
Bob Bakken is Managing Editor for the DeSoto Times-Tribune.