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Delta Center hosts Robertson Scholars’ Community Summer internship program

Summer 2018 Robertson Scholar interns gather in front of the W.C. Handy Blues Trail Marker on the grounds of the Bolivar County Courthouse, downtown Cleveland.


Before working with The Delta Center at Delta State University, Lawton Ives had never heard of koolickles.

“It’s a reddish sweet and sour pickle made with Kool Aid and lots of sugar,” said Ives, a rising sophomore from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. “We have made lots of them for The Most Southern Place on Earth Institute for teachers who come here to learn about Delta food, music and culture.”

For more than 10 years, The Delta Center has hosted summer interns from the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program at Duke University and the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill.

“I am learning so much about how the Delta has influenced the nation and the world,” said Jake Sheridan, a rising sophomore from Duke University interning with The Delta Center. “The Blues, the Civil Rights Movement, slavery and the cotton industry, these stories and so much more are all right here.”

The Delta Center recently held a Robertson Scholars dinner at Mississippi Grounds in Cleveland. Interns and their mentors attended from various Delta community sites including Delta Arts Alliance, Delta Music Institute, GRAMMY Museum® Mississippi, St. Gabriel’s Mercy Center, and Sunflower County Freedom Project.

Members of the Robertson Scholars administrative leadership team traveled from North Carolina to attend as well, while conducting Mississippi Delta site visits.

“We call it Community Summer,” said Allen Chan, executive director of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. “It is a critical social interaction and character building experience for our students. It provides them with a greater understanding of social justice issues that communities are facing throughout the South and the nation.”

“The Delta Center continues to be an excellent lead partner for our Mississippi Delta program,” said Vicki Stocking, director of summer programs for Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. “The Delta Center’s strong connections with organizations and people here in Cleveland and the surrounding area make this a life-changing educational community service experience for our students every year.”

Robertson Scholars with members of The Delta Center team (left to right) Shelia Winters, Jake Sheridan, Dr. Rolando Herts, Lee Aylward, Lawton Ives and Sarah Hicks.

Through a generous $24 million gift from Julian Robertson, a 1955 graduate of UNC Chapel Hill, and his wife, Josie, the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program provides a full tuition four-year scholarship to Duke and UNC Chapel Hill freshmen. Serving as a Community Summer volunteer intern is one of the requirements of receiving the scholarship.

“We have loved hosting the Robertson Scholar interns for several years now,” said Lee Aylward, program associate for education and community outreach at The Delta Center. “They learn the importance of giving their time and talents toward improving social conditions in the Mississippi Delta. In turn, organizations increase their capacity to offer community service programs to Delta residents and visitors every summer. It truly is a win-win.”

“Through this partnership, The Delta Center helps to place these very bright student interns with several organizations that are doing important educational and cultural development work in the Mississippi Delta,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center.

Ten Robertson Scholars have been assigned to volunteer in the Mississippi Delta this summer. Their names are listed below by their Delta community organization placements along with their university affiliations and hometowns:

Delta Arts Alliance
Kyle Ryan (Duke), Kennebunkport, ME
Allayne Thomas (Duke), Raleigh, NC

Delta Center for Culture and Learning
Lawton Ives (UNC), Chapel Hill, NC
Jake Sheridan (Duke), Charlotte, NC

Delta Music Institute
Warner Lamar (UNC), Nashville TN

St. Gabriel’s Mercy Center
Rahi Patel (UNC), Waxhaw, NC
Antonia Young (Duke), Auckland, New Zealand

Sunflower County Freedom Project
Liza Becker (Duke), Elkins Park, PA
Adam Enggasser (UNC), Greenville, SC
Naraya Price (UNC), Poughkeepsie, NY

Community Summer places Robertson Scholars in other parts of the South including Edgecombe County, North Carolina; New Orleans, Louisiana; and Whitesburg, Kentucky.

The Robertson Scholars Leadership Program was created in the year 2000 by Julian and Josie Robertson. The program invests in young leaders who strive to make transformational contributions to society. To learn more, visit

The mission of The Delta Center is to promote greater understanding of Mississippi Delta culture and history and its significance to the world through education, partnerships and community engagement. The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the MDNHA and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and the National Endowment for the Humanities “Most Southern Place on Earth” workshops. For more information, visit