Entrepreneurial Leadership Summer Program Expands

Ole Miss alum Edith Kelly-Green (standing), founder of the KGR Group and former Vice President of FedEx Corp., speaks to MELP students during a session at the UM Center for Innovation and L entrepreneurship at Conner Hall. Photo submitted

OXFORD, Mississippi — High school students across the state are looking for innovative ways to solve social and economic problems in their hometown after participating in an annual University of Mississippi entrepreneurial leadership program.

McLean’s seventh annual Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, or MELP, lasted a week for 15 high school students. Presented by innovation fellows and scholars from the Catalyzing Entrepreneurship and Economic Development, or CEED, initiative of the Grisham-McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement, the program ran from June 19-24. on the Ole Miss campus.

Students from Pontotoc, Como, New Albany, Lexington, Greenwood, Tutwiler, Sardis and Memphis, Tennessee participated this year. This included students from the M partner counties of Holmes, Tallahatchie, Pontotoc and Union, where the university has engaged in more than 100 community projects since 2018.

M Partner is a campus-wide initiative that seeks to pair university resources with community projects to improve the quality of life in partner communities.

“The goal of the MELP program was to introduce students across the state to the entrepreneurial spirit of community and economic development,” said Molly Archer, a CEED fellow who led the week’s events.

MELP students interacted with community leaders across Oxford and Lafayette County, and attended readings and lectures given by professors, community leaders and students.

“This leadership program was started to foster an entrepreneurial spirit that can be used to solve community and state problems through community engagement,” said Albert Nylander, director of the Grisham Institute. -McLean and professor of sociology.

The program is structured to cultivate innovative approaches to solving problems that students identify in their communities. They studied principles of entrepreneurship, data and demographics, environmental sustainability, health and wellness.

This year included the use of virtual reality technologies to boost workforce skills.

Laura Martin (right), associate director of the Grisham-McLean Institute for Public Service and Community Engagement and director of the M Partner program, consults with MELP participant Jasmine Hill, of Como, after a session at the UM Center for Public Service innovation and entrepreneurship. Photo submitted

“The impact of this week-long program is being felt in communities across Mississippi,” said JR Love, CEED project manager. “Business and community leaders see their local high school students developing action-oriented solutions for their own community.”

Asked about the impact the MELP experience had on them, the students responded positively.

“Before that, I didn’t even think about becoming an entrepreneur,” said Jalin Lewis of Tallahatchie County. “Now I have something to fall back on if I don’t achieve my original goal of playing in the NFL or NBA.”

Ma’Kayla Moore of Lexington said MELP improved her communication skills.

“This program made me realize how shy I could be sometimes,” she said. “I realize now that I need to have strong communication skills if I want to be a lawyer one day.”

The goal of MELP and M Partner is to spark this kind of inspired and innovative thinking, said Laura Martin, associate director of the institute and director of M Partner.

“Thanks to our CEED students, program partners, and the talented students who join us for MELP, we are able to learn from each other and join forces to solve Mississippi’s pressing social and economic issues,” said Martin. “I am optimistic that we can expand this program in the future and develop a network of partnerships across the state that will impact the quality of life in Mississippi.”

In addition to support from the Office of Pre-College Programs, other MELP partners include the university’s Center for Innovation and Entrepreneurship, School of Law, Department of Intercollegiate Athletics, and Sally McDonnell Barksdale Honors College. , and Lobaki Inc. The Robert M. Hearin Foundation and Ole Miss Bill Fry alumnus also provided financial support to fund the CEED initiative and youth leadership and technology programs.

To learn more about the McLean Entrepreneurial Leadership Program, visit http://www.outreach.olemiss.edu/mcleanleadership. To learn more about M Partner, visit http://mpartner.olemiss.edu/.

Kevin E. Boling