By Thomas Mooney
Mississippi was a mystery to me before I explored the University of Mississippi my senior year in high school. People never really talked about it back home.
The majority of kids in Baltimore decide to attend schools closer to home, mostly in the North. Going this far south was considered crazy.
I first visited Mississippi during the spring of 2014. I had high expectations about Oxford through research. I was only there two days, but knew it was where I wanted to spend my next four or five years, as they like to say here at Ole Miss.
The people were incredibly welcoming and reflected true Southern hospitality. After my decision to attend school there, many people told me what they had heard about Mississippi – the people are racists and uneducated. It was funny to me because these people had never been there.
It wasn’t the best time for the university and the state though, because the James Meredith statue noose incident had just occurred that spring. The school’s reputation nationwide was pretty bad at the moment, and I understood why people said bad things, but I knew a few bad eggs did not represent the place as a whole.
I began to realize during my time here, people don’t really have an idea what Mississippi is like. You cannot understand Mississippi until you live here. It is all too true.
I have created an emotional relationship with Mississippi. It is my second home and will always have a place in my heart.
Explaining this place to someone is a struggle, but enjoyable. They act like they understand, but they are confused. It is hard for them to imagine a place where the people move at their own pace, not rushed by life or how others view them.
It is simple living that I will miss. I think it is unfortunate the state is viewed so negatively while it has so many positive aspects. The people and the beauty are what characterize Mississippi.
The perception of Mississippi is that it is not well run compared to other states. It does not function correctly and seems to have no major plans to do so.
When I see how Mississippi works, it can give me a major headache. A place I enjoy so much is unable to support itself. The state is ranked poorly by U.S. News at 49th.
There are a lot of contributing factors to that ranking that should addressed. In six out of seven categories used to grade the state, Mississippi is ranked between 45-50 in those groups.
My campaign is charged with helping fix those problems. The main focus is funding better public education. Education progress doesn’t just help itself; it can lead to improvement with all Mississippi issues.
I don’t believe people receive the proper resources in education here for it to possibly be a productive and effective state. It is understandable because the state cannot afford to do so.
My campaign will create a non-profit foundation that will raise money and awareness for the educational system in Mississippi. The foundation will rely on the generosity of people who want to improve Mississippi. It will be called the Made in Mississippi Foundation.
The name relates to the false perception that nothing great comes from Mississippi. It says we are proud to live here and strive to make our state the best it can be. The idea is to promote the foundation as much as possible, educate people about our cause and receive donations that better the public school system.
The majority of our campaign will be through media. We’ll create a website. Visitors will learn about the foundation’s cause and goals.
Featured news stories will relate to the issues and growth of public education in Mississippi. We will not discourage any donation, big or small.
The campaign will not create immediate change in Mississippi public education. It is a slow process, but one that chips away the flaws of the educational system. It will start with the more needy areas of Mississippi, the rural towns that aren’t as prosperous as they were years ago.
Educating the less fortunate is key. The purpose is to spread the idea and grow concern throughout communities, earning citizen trust so we can band together, advance the educational system and help the next generation have a better chance to succeed.
New ideas for the campaign would be working to gain a government partnership and working to create legislation and funding that will benefit the educational system.
I was surprised that Mississippi ranks last in the nation for internet access. A lot of our campaign is on the internet, so more media channels would be used to raise awareness with ads in local newspapers, magazines and news broadcasts.
The Made in Mississippi Foundation would run a statewide commercial presenting possibilities to provide a stronger education for our children. I would aim to change the impression of Mississippi by showcasing Mississippians with great educational backgrounds.
The perception I have of Mississippi has changed throughout the years. I now know Mississippi citizens are striving for change. They care for their state, wanting to benefit each other as much as possible.