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First Okra Scholars announced

By June 11, 2015Academics, Students
The inaugural group of Okra Scholars were recently honored for their participation in the new program.

In 2014, the U.S. Department of Education’s Fund for the Improvement of Post-Secondary Education announced funding to launch the First in the World program. Proposals were submitted by 459 higher education institutions across the United States. Delta State University was one of only 24 institutions selected and the only institution in Mississippi to receive funding. The university received a four-year, $1.6 million grant to implement Okra Scholars.

Okra Scholars are an exceptional group of students who are motivated and committed to completing their college degree. The program was established to assist freshmen with turning their dream of attaining a college education into reality. The inaugural group of 56 students were recently honored for their selection.

“Okra Scholars works to increase the retention, engagement, on-time graduation and employability of DSU students by incorporating innovative learning strategies into four-year personalized learning pathways,” said Matthew Harris, program associate. “We focus on the entire student life cycle by creating a personal path that builds upon a foundation of services.”

At each stage of the cycle, students engage in specific activities that accentuate college development, including, but not limited to: tutorial services, a collaborative learning lab, learning community classes, study skills workshops, professional development courses, internships and part-time employment opportunities.

Students eligible to participate in Okra Scholars are freshmen who meet one of the following eligibility requirements: ACT score of 17-21, resident of the Mississippi Delta, a first-generation college student or Pell-Grant eligible.

Each academic year, a new group of freshmen will join the program utilizing returning Okra Scholars as peer mentors. The scholars commit to completing their degree and are assigned a faculty mentor to help guide them throughout their time as a student.

Faculty mentors support holistic development throughout the student life cycle — from the first year up to graduation — while creating constructive learning environments that coincide with each of the three project components of academic success, career development and cultural competency.

Beginning at Delta State’s Summer 2015 Freshmen Orientation, program officials will recruit a new group of scholars for the 2015-2016 academic year. Interested incoming freshmen are encouraged to apply for participation no later than Aug. 1, 2015. Students selected for participation will attend an orientation at the beginning of the fall semester.

This year’s recipients are:

Lake Village, AR- Caleh Trexler

Springdale, AR- Taylor WyattBelzoni, MS- Talauntra Bullock

Brandon, MS- Austin Hartz

Bruce, MS- Linesha Miller

Duncan, MS- Eurekia Beasley

Canton, MS- Lynn ArmonCleveland, MS- Tia Brown, Diamond Jackson, Michael Long, David Mullen, Gregory Peacock, Terry Winston

Clarksdale, MS- Ashley Keller, Kimberly Molina, Bryson Stubbs

Columbus, MS- Carlius Bankhead, Brenesha Smith

Como, MS- Ladarius Gates

Courtland, MS- Sabrina Beard

Duncan, MS- Eurekia Beasley

Dundee, MS-   Tristan Ainsworth

Eupora, MS- Chance Cooper

Greenville, MS-Ladarrien Evans, Keuna

Hodges, Rickeita Marsalis, Quaneisha Murray

Grenada, MS-  Ahmad Lewis

Hattiesburg, MS- Akira Griffin

Hernando, MS-Benjamin Buckhalter, Brittany McClendon

Horn Lake, MS- Amanda Lutz, Madison Wahlstrom

Houston, MS- Paige Griffin

Hollandale, MS- Kenya Lindsey, Maggie Turner

Indianola, MS- Tyeshia Price

Lambert, MS- Chaketha Gilliam

Metcalfe, MS- Denzell Breedlove, Tiffany Ezekiel

Nesbit, MS- Annie Casey

Olive Branch, MS- Skylar Kuehn

Oxford, MS- Harrison Hopper

Pope, MS- Dana Rico

Prentiss, MS- Tykia Barber

Rosedale, MS- Quenita Drummer

Rolling Fork, MS- La’Quita Minor

Sardis, MS- Jordan Pullen

Southaven, MS- Jacob Ludlam, Matthew Talbert

Tupelo, MS-Aarion Edwards

Tutwiler, MS- Imani Scott

Water Valley, MS- Catherine Tollison

Garden City, NY- TeNeal Colbert

Bartlett, TN- Lane Hylander

Somerville, TN- Anjelica Rivers

Memphis, TN-  Sydnee Williams


Okra Scholars is a division of the Delta State University Student Success Center and is located in the H.L. Nowell Student Union. For more information, contact Matthew Harris at or 662-846-4501.