Six students part of Watson’s Student Ambassador Program
Photo: Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson speaks to the Hernando Main Street Chamber of Commerce quarterly luncheon at 1 Memphis Street. (Bob Bakken/desotocountynews.com)
Mississippi Secretary of State Michael Watson has a program he calls the Student Ambassador Program, which Watson recently talked about after announcing the next group of students to be involved in the program.
Six of the students selected come from DeSoto County schools, including Hernando and Olive Branch high schools, Northpoint Christian School, and a student from DeSoto County who attends Mississippi School for Math and Science in Columbus.
They are: Ava Perry, Morgyn Williams, John Stevenson, Angel Viveros, Iris Xue, and Kori Jeffries.
Watson and his office selects students from around the state who will be seniors in the 2023-24 school year and have a passion for leadership and state government. The program equips them to be involved in their schools as advocates for voter education and awareness.
The ability to be involved in the program comes from having a grade point average of 3.0 or higher, an interest in state government, and other factors.
“They apply and they give personal references,” Watson said in Hernando recently. “They provide a resume, and they write an essay. There are some short answer questions that we use to select them.”
As part of the program, students are able to meet with state officials and legislators, and develop a network of fellow students who share the same interest in government. They also will meet with business leaders and learn about future opportunities for them as they start a career.
“We’re pouring back into our students, letting them know that we care, we want them to stay in Mississippi and we try to give them opportunities to meet businesses around the state,” Watson pointed out. “A lot of time students don’t know that opportunities exist here and we hope we can keep them in Mississippi. It only benefits our state.”
The program participants will also have two in-person sessions, one each in North Mississippi and again in the southern part of the state. One day summit meetings will take place in Jackson and Watson said they will be focusing on the elections process, especially this fall. The spring session will look more closely at the legislative process. Virtual Zoom sessions each month are also part of the program.
Watson said that, as well as learning about state government and the process, he hopes the Student Ambassadors discover that Mississippi is a great place to live in and be a part of.
“I don’t mind if they go out of state to go to college but I want them to come back to Mississippi,” Watson explained. “If they get in a situation where they are not sure if the opportunity they want exists, I want them to call me personally. It’s about relationships.”