Many concerned citizens in Mississippi are finding solutions and working to provide optimal environments for children and their families. These success stories portray the results of countless hours of dedication, work and commitment of individuals and communities toward improving the lives of children and families across Mississippi. We have featured only four stories of success in Mississippi among numerous community-based programs that promote successful outcomes for children. It is a beginning.
It is our hope that these success stories will serve to stimulate thought and action for unique solutions that benefit Mississippi’s children.
Emerson Family School
Starkville School District
Since 1994 Emerson Family School has successfully reached thousands of families, with a special emphasis on those at-risk. Emerson Family School offers childcare and preschool, respite care for children, Adult Basic Education (ABE) and GED classes, a comprehensive lending library, and a wide variety of self-improvement classes such as financial management, marriage enrichment, and birthing classes. An average of 300 families per month use the Emerson Family Resource Center lending library filled with books, games, toys, videos, and music CDs. “During these tough economic times, it’s challenging for families,” says Elmarie Brooks, the Coordinator of the Emerson Family Resource Center. “We have different toys and books that the parents can check out so they never have to spend out of their pockets. Do you buy food, clothing, and shelter, or do you buy books for your child? We’re helping them to not have to make that choice.” Emerson Family School is a place where families, schools, and the community have an opportunity to work together to strengthen and support families in the Starkville area.
Jackson Medical Mall Foundation’s Childhood Obesity Project
Listen; participate; learn. Three simple action words are being used to encourage Jackson area students to get off the couch and into a world of healthy living. The Jackson Medical Mall Foundation’s Childhood Obesity Project (JMMFCOP) is providing direct services to at-risk youth between the ages of five and seventeen living within the Metro Jackson area. Nearly 2,000 youth and their families have participated to date and all services are free of charge. The Childhood Obesity Project focuses on four components: (1) total fitness development, (2) diet and nutritional education, (3) self-efficacy building, and (4) daily supplemental education services. JMMFCOP staff and community partners offer their services wherever there are kids by tapping into after-school providers, schools, libraries, community-based outlets and faith-based organizations across the Jackson area. Grandmother, Cheryl Payne, described the difference the program has made for her grandson: “They took a child who was overweight and would rather watch TV or play games on the computer, and started him out with exercising. They introduced him to physical activities that can be fun and not work. He has lost weight, has become interested in sports, and is even showing his little nephews how to jump rope.”
Moore Community House
According to Moore Community House (MCH) Executive Director Carol Burnett, “The way to make families economically successful is to move them to a place where you either provide something they don’t have to pay for in order to help their income and outflow, or you make them able to earn more to help their income and outflow. We’re doing both by helping [families] reduce their outflow and increase their income.” Moore Community House helps make families economically successful through services offered by their Early Head Start Center for children birth to age three, and their innovative Women in Construction (WinC) program aimed at training low-income women in nontraditional jobs. In addition to caring for young children, the MCH Early Head Start Center works through local partners to identify and coordinate assistance for physical and mental health services, financial counseling, safety and nutrition information, all tailored to the individual needs of families. The Women in Construction program provides instruction in construction skills to women and helps them secure employment in those fields. Since 2008, over 100 women have graduated from the program, and approximately 85% are employed across the coast as certified welders, carpenters, and construction workers making significantly higher wages than before.