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Blue Ribbon Bonanza

Posted By HALO, Mar 24, 2011

It is our third day here at the Mississippi Center for Justice and we are correcting injustices left, right and center.  For those of you keeping track of us we closed last night with canvassing the local neighborhood.  We were rallying the community to support the reopening of the historical and beloved Nichols Elementary School.  The closure of the school was controversial as it was one of the best schools in the state and one of four Blue Ribbon schools.  When the W. K. Kellogg Foundation offered the Biloxi School District money that would be sufficient to keep the school open, they rejected it, inciting more controversy.   The Mississippi Center for Justice is part of a campaign to reopen the school and also hopes that the Nichols controversy will be considered when the Biloxi School District considers who to hire as the new superintendent. 

While canvassing, we passed out flyers about the school and its closure.  We also passed out a survey about what people in the community would like to see in the new superintendent.  We have already received some surveys back and hope the Mississippi Center for Justice receives many more to send along to the selection committee.  We also handed out blue ribbons we diligently folded each day for people to wear in support of the reopening of Nichols Elementary School.


Here are the thoughts of those of us who worked on the Nichol’s project this week:

Kelsey- I hope we have encouraged at least a few people to think about what the Biloxi School District does and how it affects their children.  This was a very difficult decision for a school board that was facing low enrollment and a shrinking budget.  However, to close a top ranked school in a poor community that deeply needs it is heartbreaking.   I really hope that the children in the East Biloxi receive the education they deserve, regardless of what school they attend.   I was also impressed at how receptive members of the community were to outsiders campaigning on a local issue.  


Ben- My favorite part was talking with the people in the community. Many of them were aware of the issues surrounding the closure of the school and had a deep desire for the school to re-open. However, I also found the issues became more complicated and less certain the more our team looked into them. I learned that problems and hurts in the community are often difficult to heal and take more time than first imagined.


Miranda-The most difficult thing for me on this trip was the fact that both sides of this issue have legitimate and convincing arguments.  The school district facing difficult times and low enrollment issues that stem from Katrina were forced to shut down and consolidate three of their schools.  On the other hand this community has been hit by the effects of both Katrina and the BP oil spill and honestly racism (racism that I was shocked still existed today in America despite the fact that I had been told it did on numerous occasions).  So although the issue seems necessary on the surface the fact that this school was thriving despite all the odds being against it meant that this school, a historically Black only segregated school, had become a rallying point for a struggling community.  All in all, things are complicated but looking deeper than the initial practicalities and into what this school has meant to the community means fighting for it is worthwhile, despite the odds.


Nick- The trip to Biloxi was a great chance to meet and work with the local community. The passion of the community in re opening Nichols was inspirational.  The community has rallied around a historical school that has been doing impressive work with the children. Hopefully the work we did this work in legal research and canvassing the community will help the community get Nichols re-opened The staff at MJC was great and very helpful to the group.


Kayla- It was wonderful to see the power and passion a community has when it rallies around a cause.  What continued to surprise me during the canvasing was the instant warmth people exuded when we mentioned that we were there to support Nichols and were doing things to get their school back.  And it was great to work with people who cared so much about bettering the lives of others. The MJC staff were the nicest people you’d ever meet, and…if anyone’s looking for future internship opportunities, I’m sure they’d love to have you! :)