CLEVELAND, Miss. — In June, The Delta Center for Culture and Learning at Delta State University held a community dinner welcoming the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program back to the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area (MS Delta NHA).
“We are always so very honored to welcome the Robertson Scholars to the Mississippi Delta during their annual Community Summer internship experience,” said Dr. Rolando Herts, director of The Delta Center and executive director of the MS Delta NHA. “The Robertson Scholars bring tremendous innovation, insights, and vibrancy to community organizations here, and we are most grateful for their time, talents, and brilliant contributions.”
Since 2006, The Delta Center has hosted summer interns from the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. During this “Community Summer” experience, the interns learn about the land, the people, the movements, and the culture that embodies the Mississippi Delta.
“I learned soon after I joined this team that Community Summer is one of the jewels of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. During Community Summer, Robertsons go to a new place for eight weeks, live together, and do work that matters,” said Vicki Stocking, Summer Program Director of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. “They spend time with outstanding community-based mentors who help them make sense of what they experience. They are there long enough to meet people and feel connected to the place—and short enough that they realize there is so much work left to do and so much love to give. Scholars who open themselves to the experience come away with a clearer sense of what leadership means for them and a deeper commitment to the world.”
The Delta Center and Robertson Scholars have continued their mission to create empowering spaces and opportunities for MS Delta NHA communities to share their cultural heritage stories.
This year, as their primary summer project, the Robertson Scholars assigned to The Delta Center assisted in producing the 11th Most Southern Place on Earth workshop supported by the National Endowment for the Humanities (NEH), documenting and assisting with logistical aspects of the workshop. The scholars produced a 16-episode docuseries for the NEH and are currently working on a written resource to accompany the docuseries to make learning about the Mississippi Delta more accessible. To learn more about the NEH Most Southern workshop and view the educational resources, visit www.deltacenterdsu.com/photos-portfolios-and-videos.
“Being able to see and hear educators from across the country experience the Mississippi Delta from an outsider’s perspective is invaluable,” said Emily Chen, a Robertson Scholar intern from UNC Chapel Hill. “It reminds me of how I first perceived this area at the beginning of the summer. With the Delta Center, I’ve been able to see how the region is a microcosm for the United States, how deep history’s roots run here, and what being ‘Southern’ means for different people.”
Exploration of diverse experiences and histories is a vital component of the Robertson Scholars Leadership Program. The program was initiated in 2000 when UNC Chapel Hill graduate Julian Robertson provided $24 million dollars in seed funding. While Robertson was a UNC Chapel Hill alum, his children attended Duke University and UNC Chapel Hill. To learn more about the program, visit https://robertsonscholars.org/.
Towards allowing students to experience the best of both of these prestigious universities, each year, approximately 36 current and incoming freshmen are awarded fully funded educational experiences, cross-campus access, and intensive leadership training. This includes Community Summer, which requires Robertson Scholars to live and work together in rural communities across the American South between their freshman and sophomore years.
During Community Summer, 7-10 Robertson Scholars are placed in four partner localities throughout the South: Cleveland, Mississippi; Tarboro, North Carolina; Whitesburg, Kentucky; and New Orleans, Louisiana. The following scholars were placed in the Mississippi Delta:
Delta Arts Alliance
Reagan Ballard (UNC), Tulsa, Oklahoma
Matthew Xu (Duke), Princeton, New Jersey
Alyssa Ho (Duke), Los Angeles, California
The Delta Center for Culture & Learning
Mercy Jones (Duke), New Plymouth, New Zealand
Jothi Gupta (Duke), Dallas, Texas
Emily Chen (UNC), Cary, North Carolina
Delta Health Center
Joshua Lopez (UNC), Garland, Texas
Rohan Shreenath (Duke), Goldsboro, North Carolina
Bunmi Omisore (Duke), Gambrills, Maryland
Sunflower County Freedom Project
Caleb Dalgetty (Duke), Englewood, New Jersey
The Delta Center serves as the management entity of the Mississippi Delta National Heritage Area and is the home of the International Delta Blues Project and the National Endowment for the Humanities Most Southern Place on Earth workshops for K-12 educators. For more information, visit www.deltacenterdsu.com.