Picturing the Future through leaderSTATE

September 29, 2017

As students enter into high school, discussions about their future crop up more and more often. Each summer 15-20 Palmer Home children take this discussion to heart as part of Mississippi State University’s leaderSTATE program.

“It’s amazing to see them open their minds to opportunities that are available. That’s what we want to do,” said Lynn Atkins, Campus Director at Palmer Home for Children’s Columbus campus.

For six weeks each summer, MSU operates leaderSTATE as a leadership camp for Junior ROTC members. The program, sponsored by the U.S. Army, typically focuses on Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) education.

Not long after arriving at Palmer Home for Children as the new president, Drake Bassett became involved with MSU’s business school and began to learn about leaderSTATE. After some discussions with Dr. Cade Smith, Director of the Center for Community Engaged Learning, the college offered to tweak the program and make it available to Palmer Home children who were entering the 10th-12th grades.

Children from both Columbus and Hernando campuses attend the camp where they spend the week living on the MSU campus, learning about available careers, and touring major manufacturing facilities. This year the students toured the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi facility in Blue Springs, Mississippi. In years past they have toured Nissan North America in Canton, Mississippi and Taylor Machine Works in Louisville, Mississippi.

Each student works with the counsellors to create a life plan based on a career he or she would like to pursue. They then bring those plans back to campus and work with staff to follow through on that plan.

Atkins recalls one student who returned with a plan to become a veterinarian. She researched the cost of vet school, what courses she needed to take in order to be accepted, what earning potential she could expect and how long it would take to achieve that goal. The student is now in her second year of college and continues to follow that life plan she created four years ago.

“This year they focused on not only their life plan but also on creating a presentation at the end of the week to show what they gained from the experience,” said Atkins.

Several students quoted speakers they heard during the week and others expressed an interest in working for Toyota in the future.

“It gets the students thinking about the endless possibilities available to them in the future,” said Atkins. “They also love the college campus environment and begin thinking about where they want to go to school after graduation.”

Helping students understand they can change the cycles of abuse, neglect and drug use that often color their past is a great part of restoring hope for their future. LeaderSTATE plays a key role in opening the students’ eyes to the endless opportunities waiting in their future.