msa-class-of-2016Graduation is nothing less than exciting for high school seniors, especially at Mississippi School of the Arts. Two years of rigorous work prepares students for advanced studies in colleges and universities around the nation. The Class of 2016 set a milestone with overall composite ACT scores during mandated testing, achieving the third highest composite score of any public school in the state. The Class of 2016 also set another milestone with overall scholarship and financial aid offers of $8.5+ million, surpassing the previous record held in 2015 of $6.5 million dollars. Students from the Class of ’16 have been accepted to universities such as Hawaii Pacific, Memphis College of Art, Savannah College of Art and Design, Shenandoah Conservatory, Clark-Atlanta University, Spelman College, Howard University, University of Mississippi, University of Southern Mississippi, and many more. One-hundred percent of seniors graduated, with ninety-two percent graduating with honors. The Class of 2016 Valedictorian is vocal music senior Joey Davis of Brookhaven and Salutatorian is vocal music senior Olivia Vaughn of Meridian.

This year’s keynote speaker for Commencement 2016 was Marshall Ramsey, an award-winning editorial cartoonist. Marshall kept the stage alive and gave graduating seniors a bit of encouragement and personal experiences. According to his web site, “Marshall Ramsey has been living his childhood dream for 46 years. But that dream hasn’t always been easy. When Ramsey graduated with honors from the University of Tennessee in 1991, his first job was as a night custodian at Pope High School in Marietta, Georgia – not exactly a planned destination on his career path.   But Ramsey quickly learned that the “worst moments” in life are the seeds for the best moments.

marshall-ramseyRamsey is a two-time Pulitzer Finalist (2002 and 2006). His editorial cartoons are syndicated nationally by Creators Syndicate and have appeared in The New York Times, USA Today and The (Jackson, Miss.) Clarion-Ledger. He is the author several successful books including two cartoon collections, the short story collection, Fried Chicken and Wine and the delightful children’s book Banjo’s Dream.  Ramsey’s cartoons, photos, stories and posts are frequently shared on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram.   He’s also the host of the weekly statewide radio program, Now You’re Talking with Marshall Ramsey on Mississippi Public Broadcasting.

Ramsey’s also a cancer survivor.  Diagnosed with malignant melanoma in 2001, he has been honored by both the Melanoma Research Foundation and the American Cancer Society for paying his survival forward. He actively promotes skin cancer awareness and sun safety through cartoons, speeches, skin screenings and a 5K race. He even ran the Marine Corps Marathon to raise funds for melanoma research.” – Marshal Ramsey official web site (

Commencement 2016 was held in Hurst Auditorium (Fine Arts) at Southwest Mississippi Community College in Summit, Mississippi.

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– Pledge of Allegiance: A’Mya Jones (SGA President)
– Greetings: Suzanne Hirsch (MSA Executive Director) and Wendy Clemons (MS Dept. of Education)
– Salutatorian’s Address: Olivia Vaughn
– Valedictorian’s Address: Joey Davis
– Commencement Address: Marshall Ramsey
– Presentation of Diplomas (Admin Only): Suzanne Hirsch, Debra Price (Principal)
– Special Music: MSA Chorale (Patton Rice, Director of Music)
– Recessional: Steve Russell (Pianist)

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Now we rise, we fly, we shine.