Reeves, Younger, visit ECHS

Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves, left, talks with ECHS freshman Shalyla Fletcher on a tour of the school Friday. Both Reeves and state Sen. Chuck Younger, R-Columbus, visited the school. (Photo by Charlie Benton, SDN)

Staff Writer

The East Mississippi Community College Early College High School received a visit from some important guests Friday.

Republican Lt. Gov. Tate Reeves and state Sen. Chuck Younger, a Columbus Republican, visited the school, observing students in class and seeing students participate in a reality fair. EMCC interim President Randall Bradberry also went on the tour along with other senior EMCC administrators. ECHS Principal Jill Savely led the school tour.

Reeves said he was impressed by what he saw at the ECHS.

“What I saw today was young people excited about learning, and it think that’s one of the great things about this concept,” Reeves said. “You’re taking kids that need a new environment sometimes. The thing I think I would stress is every kid is different, and every kid needs a different environment. Some kids can be very successful in a high school that’s got 1,000 kids per class. Some kids can be successful in a high school that’s got 100 kids in the whole school.”

Younger also said he was impressed. He emphasized the opportunities being in a college atmosphere brought to the students. By their junior year, most ECHS students are taking predominately college classes, and most will graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree.

“With all the technology we’ve got nowadays, all these kids aren’t kids anymore,” Younger said. “They lose being kids at the age of 10, with all the technology and the telephones, the computers, everything we have. I think that the atmosphere they’re in in these schools is like college, and I think it’s a big boost for them.”

Reeves was also impressed by the school’s focus on career readiness, emphasizing that not every student is bound for a four-year university. He also emphasized the importance of thinking about the future early on.

“We want every one of these young people, once they graduate high school, or once they graduate community college, if they want to go to a four-year university, we think that’s great, but if they want to go to the workforce, they need to have the skills available to them, the skills necessary to be successful in the workforce,” Reeves said. “The first room that we werein today, they were learning life skills, budgets. They were learning that their GPA is going to help determine how much money they have on their weekly paycheck.”

Bradberry, who was named interim president last week, said he enjoyed learning about the ECHS.

“I’ve heard about the Early College (High School), but I knew very little about it,” Bradberry said. “It was the first time I had a chance to look at it firsthand, but I was impressed also. I think as far as our community is concerned, the area that these students are coming from, our school has got to be a positive impact.”

Reeves and Younger also discussed some accomplishments from the July special legislative session, and plans for the future, including a possible teacher pay raise.

“We’ve already passed the largest tax cut in Mississippi history, so we think we ought to invest in the classroom, invest in our teachers,” Reeves said. “I think you’ll see us push for a teacher pay raise this year, and I think 99 percent of the teachers will appreciate that, and want us to do that.”

Savely said Reeves and Younger were complementary of the school throughout their visit.

“I was glad that they could see how comfortable students are being here, and how much fun they hare having learning,” Savely said. “That’s one thing that’s really important to us, is that we create safe spaces for students to learn, where they can have a debate like we saw over in the English 11 classroom.”