By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – While trying to convince his two 23-year-old children to return to Mississippi to live, Tupelo attorney Kenneth Mayfield had a bigger idea.
He wanted to inspire a conversation among the region’s brightest high school seniors to make them think about using their talents to benefit Mississippi.
The result was an essay contest that he announced this fall. On Wednesday, Mayfield recognized the 16 finalists in his inaugural contest during a press conference held at the CREATE Foundation. Winners will be unveiled on Saturday at the law firm’s first Charity Ball.
Participants wrote a 500- to 1,000-word essay on the topic, “Why get educated and live in Mississippi.” Mayfield spoke to the participants gathered at Tuesday’s press conference about the importance of giving back to their state.
“We wanted to start a conversation with you young people and encourage our best and our brightest to come back to Mississippi,” he said.
The Charity Ball will begin at 7 p.m. Saturday at the Summit Convention Center. Proceeds will fund next year’s essay contest.
The winner of this year’s competition will receive a $1,000 college scholarship, while the second-place finisher will get a $300 scholarship and third-place will win a $200 reward. Mayfield said he hopes to be able to grow the contest and its rewards in the future.
Students in attendance on Wednesday said they were grateful for the opportunity to compete for college scholarships.
“Thank you not only for the scholarship opportunity, but for allowing us to discuss an issue that has been plaguing us for a long time,” said Tupelo High School’s Joseph Rebentisch.
Also present at Wednesday’s press conference was Shannon High School Principal Robert Smith.
“I want to encourage you to strive to be your best and bring your best back and help us to become even better,” he said.
Students from Lee, Chickasaw, Pontotoc, Prentiss, Itawamba, Monroe and Union counties were eligible to participate in the contest.
List of winners in today’s NEMS Daily Journal newspaper.