By Patrick Chacone
Mississippi is a state notable for racism, poor education, and a majority of lower class inhabitants. Positive perceptions of Mississippi are less than rare, as it’s igneous past never retires.
My thoughts about the Magnolia State accompany the majority. My first impressions about traveling to Mississippi were less than eager. In the college application process, I placed the University of Mississippi as choice five, dead last.
It was a university in which I knew I would be granted acceptance. Some students would call slot five in the college application process their “safety school.” However, with botched transcript mailings and missed deadlines, I soon found myself an Ole Miss Rebel. “Wonderful.”
Driving across the country from Southern California, I had serious contemplations regarding the Magnolia State. It’s a racist, stagnant, conservative, poorly educated, underfunded wasteland.
I am not alone in these opinions. They’re shared, as friends, family, and a community college guidance counselor included one of the adjectives in the previous sentence as their description of the 20th state.
I grew up in a city about 40 minutes north of Los Angeles until recently moving ocean side to sun-soaked Santa Monica. The reason I tell this is perception.
A massive city, with a population hovering around 3.9 million (not including tourists), who aren’t just white and black folks. No, these people are from all corners and crevasses of the world.
With these wonderful faces comes their culture, ethnicities and values. All these stories are wildly different. You’ll never hear the same story twice – invariable variation.
Therefore, with robust school systems in which I attended, Los Angeles is the utopia to the dystopia of Mississippi.
The media’s portrayal of Mississippi is not wrong. Yeah, it’s a hard truth, but stats don’t lie. Mississippi is ranked 45th in education and 50th in wealth.
The truth hurts. The stereotypes are reality. So how can Mississippi renovate the blemishes associated with the state? More specifically, the categories of education and wealth.
As for the opinions in which I have been subjected to about Mississippi, as well as my own, I ventured out to see if there were accompanying opinions, asking those back in California about the state of Mississippi and the University of Mississippi campus.
I interviewed a girl named Janson, a freshman from northwestern Georgia. She has lived in the South, yet she has strong feelings about Mississippi. She said, “Mississippi is poor. They try and act like everything is fine, like they have money. But really it’s just a front.”
Her thoughts on education in the Magnolia State didn’t stray from criticism, “Mississippi education is low (state rankings). It’s poor education with poor results. Hence why it is the poorest state. There is no expansion of knowledge.”
I asked Janson what I should do for a campaign. She recommended that I address equality/racism in Mississippi. She said, “Workplace racism/equality can be addressed through equal wages and equal hiring regardless of race.”
I thought this idea was most helpful, and it took me in the direction of equality. However, rather than racism, I addressed education and the distribution of wealth in Mississippi. To get more insight about Mississippi, I contacted a Mississippi native for an interview – a classmate from first semester, Ole Miss sophomore John David from Madison, Mississippi.
I questioned him regarding his thoughts and perceptions about education and wealth in his home state, “The schools that I attended gave me enough knowledge in achieving my dream – attending Ole Miss. I guess since Madison is a richer area compared to other towns, the education is better, but I don’t know for sure really. Maybe.”
Upon reviewing both interviews I had with the Ole Miss students, I devised a marketing campaign to address poor education and wealth (or lack there of).
The campaign is called Magnolia Good Grade Money. It is designed to assist high school and college students in Mississippi by giving them money.
If a high school or college student has a 3.0 – 3.4 at the midterm and final grading period, they will receive $100 from the government.
If a high school or college student has a 3.5 – 3.9 at the midterm and final grading period, they will receive $150 from the government.
If a high school or college student has a 4.0, they will receive $200 from the government.
This money is not conscripted for school or school supplies. Rather, these rewards will be given to students hoping they continue their success in the classroom, and they can use the reward for whatever they please.
This gives students more incentive to do well and puts more money in the hands of Mississippians.
Now, I’m sure a majority of you, if not all of you, are wondering where are we going to get the money to do this?
We will not take any money away from education or healthcare. The rewards from MGGM will be taken from the military budget, which is already so grand.
This isn’t a simple pitch to a company; this is a pitch to the government, which I understand is very difficult if not impossible. To advertise, you will need an abundance of support.
I highly suggest that all forms of advertisement are used for this – social media, press releases, commercials, billboards, news stories, video. You name it; we’ll use it.
In order for this plan to work, it needs the utmost attention. I took to Twitter to get this campaign rolling.
The results of the campaign were not good. Nothing happened. However, I feel if I could get more support, the idea could gain traction. The message was clearly conveyed, and I believe it is possible to support such actions.
What I have learned from this project is that Mississippi holds true to some stereotypes and perceptions. However, I believe with progressive leadership, Mississippi can become a successful state that is in the national conversation regarding productivity.
I’d love to see my proposal in action to see the results and have Mississippi as a benchmark for the other states, as opposed to being the 50th to join a program such as this.