Institute’s Year-Round Youth Engagement Plan Promotes Growth of Future Mississippi Leaders

On September 13, alumni of the Summer Youth Institute, the Winter Institute’s flagship Youth Engagement program, will gather at the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center in Jackson, Miss., for SYI Reunion 2014, a biannual reunion event hosted by the Institute.

Reunion 2014 will provide SYI alumni the opportunity to grow their networks and their community-building skills. They will engage in Institute-facilitated discussions about their communities, and debate national progress toward racial reconciliation and equity.

Mississippi’s rising high school sophomores and juniors are eligible to apply to SYI; applicants go through a rigorous process for selection each spring. Over nine days each June, in Oxford, each SYIer develops a project that combines a personal interest with a need of her/his community. At Reunion 2014, SYI alumni from the last four years will discuss their projects’ progress and share strategies and lessons learned.

These reunions, combined with SYI 2.0, form a key building block of the Institute’s year-round Youth Engagement process. (SYI 2.0 biannually–on non-Reunion years–advances the SYI curriculum for recent alumni through college and career planning, lessons on personal health and wellness, and exposure to community and civic engagement skills and strategies.)

Moss Point native Jeramey Anderson, president and founder of the male youth mentoring organization Purple Knights of America and representative of Mississippi’s 110th District, is the reunion’s featured guest. Rep. Anderson will share his personal journey as a young Mississippi official, and connect with alumni on the the successes and hardships of leadership. Participants will also augment their understanding of civil rights history through a guided tour of the Smith Robertson Museum and Cultural Center that focuses on the 1964 Mississippi Freedom Summer Project.

“These opportunities help build a greater sense of community among young people who represent every region and socioeconomic group in Mississippi,” said Von Gordon, Institute Youth Engagement co-coordinator. “One of our great hopes is that when these students get together, they build bonds that allow them to develop a shared vision for a better Mississippi than the one they will inherit.”

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