BY BOBBY HARRISON
Daily Journal Jackson Bureau
JACKSON – Two Lee County high school seniors were among 11 who won top scholarships Tuesday for their mentoring of elementary students.
Scholarships of $5,000 each for Brandi Soper of Tupelo High School and Kathryn Maxwell at Saltillo High School were announced Tuesday at the annual Champions for Children luncheon in Jackson.
“The highlight of my day is always mentoring, a truly rewarding experience for both the students and me,” Maxwell wrote in her winning essay. “It leaves me with strong feelings of self-value and joy because of the positive, visible and direct effects on the students.”
The Champions for Children program was started nine years ago by Mike Moore during his tenure as attorney general. Moore, a vocal advocate of mentoring programs for underprivileged youth, has continued the program after leaving office.
He raises private money to award scholarships to graduating seniors who participate in the program. This past year, 2,500-3,000 high school students mentored. About 400 of those students applied for scholarships and 98 scholarships were awarded.
Moore handed out the scholarships Tuesday with the aid of his successor as attorney general, Jim Hood.
At the end of the luncheon, Moore said, “If Mississippi is going to continue to improve, we will do it the old-fashioned way, through volunteerism… There is nothing more profound than what you saw in this room today.”
Soper, like Maxwell, said the mentoring experience was profound for her.
“I feel that I have been molded into a better person after experiencing the love of this child,” Soper wrote in her winning essay. “My mentoring work has proven to be so rewarding that I plan to continue my relationship with my little brother' during my college career and beyond.”
Maxwell said she felt like a celebrity because of the reception she received when she visited the elementary school to mentor. The students, she said, taught her to welcome others “without preconceptions.”