By Meredith Kent, Mississippi First Summer Intern 2022 

During the summer of 2022, Mississippi First hosted two communications interns. Each intern wrote a reflection about their experience. 

Growing up in Jackson, Mississippi, I saw first-hand how the structure of a curriculum can help or harm the educational foundation that someone must have to reach their full potential. Jackson is a place where the drop-out rate is almost 20%, and the number of adults who have reported themselves as illiterate is over 15%. I saw the education system in the place that I loved in need of change for most of my life. Because of this, I knew that I wanted to make that change. The more I experienced inequitable education, the more I desired to help advocate for the opportunities of others who could not advocate for themselves. 

When I began to become active in my pursuit of educational excellence for all, I was serving as the president of The University of Alabama’s chapter of Sigma Tau Delta. Sigma Tau Delta is an international honor society that has adopted the national philanthropy of fostering and growing literacy rates throughout America. In this role, I hosted book drives for schools in low-income districts, worked fundraisers to donate time and money to schools that do not have access to resources that will propel their students, and worked as an advocate for increasing literacy efforts. During my time in this role, I was taught to understand how a reformed and progressive classroom experience affects America’s upcoming generation for the better. My time in this organization allowed me to discover that working towards a brighter future for all students is something that I am incredibly passionate about and has pushed my desire to get more involved in my community.

I knew before I sought out a role in a job like the one that I have now at Mississippi First, I needed to develop my skill set and research more about how to dismantle generational problems that hinder student’s education. I knew that by developing research studies centered on effective educational tools, I would better my advocacy and my community. I graduated from The University of Alabama in May of 2022. During my undergraduate studies, I experimented with and researched the different effects of implementing new modes of teaching in the classroom. Tools that I was and am still researching, such as the intentional use of Bibliotherapy, can encourage students to recognize the importance of education by allowing them to connect literature to their lives outside of the classroom. Throughout my time researching these teaching tools, I have grown to really love and see the importance for the curriculum changes I have seen as a result. Ultimately, I hope to work further to see these research topics come to fruition. Still, in the meantime, my goal is to build upon the tools and equip myself with the inner knowledge about advocacy that has come from my role at Mississippi First.

In the timeline of finding a passion in educational advocacy, this is where I found myself in the role of communications intern at Mississippi First. I am writing this blog post as I finish out my final week here, and I can confidently say that I have taken away so much information about communications methods, policy, and education in the state of Mississippi. I was given the opportunity to work on publications that will be distributed by Mississippi First soon, plan celebratory events to highlight significant legislative anniversaries, design a webpage that will be viewed by Mississippi First audiences, and, most importantly, observe my fellow coworkers go through their daily responsibilities in what it takes to make the important change that I always wanted to do. While I am leaving this position soon, I am able to feel a sense of pride that I have taken away the knowledge that I needed to continue my pursuits of ensuring educational excellence and that I have a group of mentors that have successfully shown me the ropes of advocating for educational change.

In the fall, I will be returning to The University of Alabama to pursue my Master’s Degree in English Literature. While I will not be directly studying policy or communications, I can 100% say that this internship will allow me to be a better instructor and advocate for my students and the students around me–fulfilling the goal I ultimately set out to fill by accepting my internship.

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