By Lexi McCoy
My thoughts about Mississippi have changed since I’ve started attending college here. Many of my classmates would make remarks like, “Don’t come back with a Southern accent!” or “Don’t get too fat while you’re there.”
While these things certainly made me think negatively towards Mississippi, I decided to try and give it a chance for myself. If I had to try and change the views that people (especially Northerners) have about the state, I would do something very direct, like pick out some very well educated, smart people who have grown up in Mississippi, and use them as an example that these perceptions of Mississippi are not accurate and have got to stop.
I want to face this problem directly because I believe that’s the only way people’s perceptions will eventually fade, and it will showcase Mississippi in a more positive light.
I think Mississippi is primarily portrayed in a very negative light by people who don’t live here, people who believe it is a racist place, and many other different groups.
I think every state has the problems Mississippi has, and I can see why Mississippians are hurt by these accusations. A few people don’t make up an entire state, and the poor choices and decisions of others should not reflect the entire state as a whole.
I think it’s great that people are going the extra mile to try and change these negative views on Mississippi. This includes my sorority Pi Beta Phi.
Pi Beta Phi’s philanthropy is Read, Lead, Achieve, and we promote literacy, help children in the surrounding schools, and teach them that an education and proper grammar are very important to success in life.
I am so happy to be part of this difference, and I hope these negative perceptions of Mississippi fade with time, because it is a very beautiful place, and I am blessed to call the University of Mississippi my home away from home.
The campaign I want to start is Education is Key. Like my sorority, I want this campaign to reach out to young people all across Mississippi, and I want it to teach that education is a must. I would hold conferences with parents so they could also get a sense of how important their children’s education is.
I would also have guest speakers tell stories about how they got to where they are, and use people from Mississippi themselves so they could show they will rise above the horrible stereotypes Mississippi is commonly attached to. I would make learning more fun and think of games and interactive features that make the children of Mississippi WANT to learn and show how crucial an education is.
With Education is Key, I would have a points system in the schools, and each thing they complete, or go above and beyond, counts for a certain amount of points. The leaders of Education is Key would hold fundraisers annually to pay for the prizes each student wins at the end of the year depending on how many points they earned.
This will promote literacy and education, and eventually show them that, even when there aren’t prizes and incentives involved, an education is crucial to their futures.
Education is Key is a very broad campaign, and it may not fix every Mississippi stereotype, but it fixes the one that is the most important and will make others think of Mississippi in a whole new way.
If Mississippi were to develop organizations like Education is Key, I think the state would be looked at more positively for at least trying. Mississippi is a great place to live, and learn. I have thrived as a student at the University of Mississippi and feel my opportunities are endless here. I want to make a change because I want others to see Mississippi the way that I do – beautiful, smart and growing.
The results of my campaign were overall positive. I talked to many friends and family from home in Illinois. Their opinions were primarily negative at first, but once I introduced Education is Key and showed them all of the things that teachers and administrators would be working towards, 90 percent said they would view Mississippi in a new light.
For the 10 percent who don’t believe they would view Mississippi any differently, they believe it will take much more, and much longer for Mississippi’s stereotypes to dissolve, which could very well be true. Regardless of the results, I think this would be a positive change for Mississippi.
If I could do anything differently, I would go more in-depth and bring out statistics about Mississippi to show how real the problems in Mississippi are to outsiders.
The most important thing is for the kids to get something from it, and I want to evoke a drive in them that they have never had prior to Education is Key. Every child deserves the opportunity to learn in a prosperous environment. Why can’t that environment be Mississippi?