Partnership Middle School (2023)

Opportunity is all around us. Sometimes, opportunity is literally right across the street. This is true when talking about Partnership Middle School’s partnership with Mississippi State University. We can walk outside, right up the sidewalk, and across the street is the beautiful MSU campus, literally just steps away from where our students spend a huge amount of their time each day. Through our partnership with Mississippi State, our middle school students have the resources of an entire University at their fingertips! There are so many ways this partnership impacts all of us at Partnership Middle School, but most importantly, this partnership provides students with supports, experiences, and opportunities that most could never even imagine.

We recognized a few specific needs among our students, including the need for positive mentorship experiences, the need for diverse extracurricular opportunities, the need for career exploration and goal setting, and the need for hands on learning experiences. Because of our partnership with MSU, we are proud to say 100% of students have been impacted. What is most exciting is that there are even more opportunities for student growth beyond the areas discussed. There is indeed a bright future ahead as this partnership continues to expand.

To address the need for positive mentorship experiences, we work directly with the Office of Student-Athlete Development at MSU. Athletes volunteer as mentors and are then paired with a student at our school. The athlete comes to the school regularly to hang out with the student they are mentoring, allowing positive relationships to be built. Additionally, we have introduced a student-athlete pen pal program this year. Each month, the student and the student-athlete pen pal write one letter to each other. Not only is this a way for our students to practice relationship building and communication skills, but it is also beneficial academically as students are getting to practice skills being taught in the classroom. Our plan is to have a day at the end of the school year for pen pals to finally get to meet in person. Student-Athletes also join us at least once a month for morning arrival, greeting students as they enter the school, getting to talk with students who look up to them, and encouraging our students to make the day a great one! Other opportunities for our students to build relationships with student-athletes have included the athletes stopping into PE classes to join in on the fun, surprise appearances in classrooms, and getting to spend time outside with an athlete during a fun activity, like giant Jenga!

The need for diverse extracurricular opportunities has been addressed through a variety of things. First, we have professors and directors from different areas of the university who come to the middle school and host a club meeting for students. These clubs range from vet club to engineering club to chemistry club! We also get to have a special installation each semester in our school hallway from the MSU Museums and Galleries department. Each installation has a general theme, and our students are encouraged to submit what they think the theme is for a chance to win a prize! Additionally, our students get a front row seat for each MSU Lyceum event, getting to experience the talents of national artists in a variety of performance areas, ranging from music to drama to dance. The Lyceum Series sets out to expand cultural and educational horizons for university students, and now for our students as well.

Addressing the need for career exploration and goal setting opportunities have been largely impacted to the Maroon VIP program. During the 6th grade, all students get to spend time on campus as they get a general tour of the university led by a current Mississippi State student and member of the Maroon VIP program. They get to hear the different facts and stories about the university campus, witness the flow of a college campus, and get a peek at what they could possibly be part of in the future. Students in 7th grade get to narrow down the career areas they are possibly interested in through interest inventories and other research, eventually choosing one career cluster option. Based on their area of interest, they get the opportunity to tour a specific department, school, or college within the University. This is a first-hand experience that many students don’t experience until they are about to graduate from high school. These experiences really expose students to the many options for them in life, encouraging them to set goals now to work towards in the future.

Lastly, we noticed the need for more hands-on learning opportunities. Learning about something in the classroom is beneficial but getting to take that knowledge and experience it in action is another layer of learning that has a huge impact. Two of our favorite hands-on learning experiences through our partnership with MSU include the Egg Drop at Davis Wade Stadium and our Interactive Weather Station. The egg drop activity took place after students had been learning about Newton’s Law of Motion. As students prepare their eggs to safely drop from a high surface using the information they have learned in class, they also get to be part of a competition to take their egg to the top of Davis Wade Stadium. After different rounds of elimination from higher and higher drops, students then get to travel to campus as the best eggs are carried to the top of the stadium and then dropped to the ground. Talk about the anticipation as you are waiting to see which eggs cracked or stayed safely tucked away during their trip down! The other hands-on learning opportunity that we love is the weather station that MSU meteorology installed brand new on our middle school campus. Teachers and students were trained by individuals from within the meteorology program on how to operate the weather station, and now someone gets to go read the weather forecast each day. That is one way to take the study of weather systems to the next level!

Again, we could speak for days on the experiences and support and opportunities our students are benefitting from daily because of our partnership with MSU. Each year, the collaboration expands, and more activities are added, more areas of the university find a way to come aboard, and ideas are born into action. I honestly couldn’t think of another way to encourage, motivate, and encourage middle school students than those we are a part of every single day.