Each year, the Trent Lott Leadership Institute for Rising Ninth Graders accepts 50 students from the state of Mississippi. In 2020, three of those students were from JA. Blair Wilson, Red Deaton, and Benjamin Watson were nominated in December of 2019 and earned their place in the program through a two-part application process that focused on their backgrounds in leadership and aspirations.
During a typical year, students travel to the University of Mississippi’s campus and stay there for the eleven-day institute, participating in daily classes and recreational activities. Due to COVID-19, that was not possible this year. Instead, students attended classes and completed group projects virtually.
“It taught me how to connect with people virtually,” said Blair, who felt that the virtual collaboration skills she developed would easily translate into any distance learning opportunities or remote work in her future. “It’s a nontraditional way of learning that gives you some life skills.”
“If you’re thinking about Ole Miss, it’s definitely a good program – especially if you’re on campus,” said Benjamin. He is already thinking about the future as he launches into the formative years of high school this fall. But even for students with their eyes set on other universities, the Trent Lott Leadership Institute for Rising Ninth Graders can help them develop the skills that contribute to a competitive college application, and a life of service through good leadership. “It makes you a leader because you work with so many other people,” Benjamin said. “You have to learn to adapt to the group.”