The Mississippi School of the Arts class of 2017 recently celebrated a milestone in their lives, graduation. After two years at the state’s special school designed for fine arts, 55 seniors are now expanding their educational goals at post-secondary institutions across the country. For this class, though, they actually reached two milestones. Not only did they graduate at 100%, but for the first time, they reached the highest amount of scholarships and financial aid received at $10.2 million dollars. It’s the highest amount ever received by a class at Mississippi School of the Arts

Rising scholarship dollar amounts is the result of extensive hours of application processing and essay writing. Last year, the class of 2016 reached the highest at $8.6 million, and also the class before that at $6 million. However, seniors in the class of 2017 jokingly set a goal of $10 million dollars. Little did they know that goal would be reached by May 1st to be announced at awards day. “A big thanks to Jaelon Love for pushing her fellow classmates in reporting scholarships and making sure things were done,” said Kenya Horn during awards day, MSA’s academic counselor. Jaelon a theatre major, will be attending Howard University this fall.

Kiese Laymon, guest speaker at MSA’s commencement 2017. Photo via web site

The class of 2017, along with hundreds of parents and guests, celebrated commencement in Hurst Auditorium at Southwest Mississippi Community College. Invited to speak at commencement was Kiese Laymon, a black southern writer, born and raised in Jackson, Mississippi.

According to his web site at, Laymon attended Millsaps College and Jackson State University before graduating from Oberlin College. He earned an MFA in Fiction from Indiana University and is currently a Professor of English and African American Studies at the University of Mississippi.

Laymon is the author of the novel, Long Division and a collection of essays, How to Slowly Kill Yourself and Others in America, the UK edition released in 2016. Laymon has written essays, stories and reviews for numerous publications including Esquire, ESPN the Magazine, Colorlines, NPR, LitHub, The Los Angeles Times, The Guardian, PEN Journal, Oxford American, The Best American Series, Ebony and Guernica.

– Greetings Suzanne Hirsch (MSA Executive Director)
– Salutatorian’s Address: Ambriehl McCoy
– Valedictorian’s Address: Alexis Weaver
– Commencement Address: Kiese Laymon
– Presentation of Diplomas: Suzanne Hirsch, Debra Price (Principal)

Listen to Commencement 2017 on YouTube

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Now we rise, we fly, we shine.