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11/6/2020 - Jackson, Miss.

Mississippi Public Universities improve the lives of Mississippi's youngest citizens in numerous ways. Universities have programs that serve children, train teachers and other specialists who serve the health and educational needs of children. Universities also partner with other organizations to support children and their families.

Mississippi Valley State University's Department of Social Work prepares students to advocate for children and families. Established in 1972 as the Family and Community Service Program, it meets the needs of human services agencies in the Delta and beyond. Accredited by the Council on Social Work Education and offering the Bachelor of Social Work (BSW) degree, the program supports local social service delivery systems through faculty and student involvement in community and professional activities, including organizing an Annual Social Work Conference at MVSU, professional training workshops, and advocating at the state capitol in support of social work issues. MVSU also offers the Master of Social Work Degree which opens the door to new and exciting career opportunities for social workers looking to expand their reach in the social work field.

Established by Congress in 1989, the Institute for Child Nutrition (ICN), part of the University of Mississippi's School of Applied Sciences, is the only federally funded national center that provides information and services for the continuous improvement of child nutrition programs. ICN collaborates with the USDA's Food and Nutrition Service along with partners at the University of Southern Mississippi to ensure child nutrition professionals across the country have access to research-based training, resources and technical assistance. ICN offers free training to thousands of people each year across the U.S., Virgin Islands, Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa. Additionally, ICN aids thousands of school districts that serve millions of children. The general public also benefits from ICN's free online classes about how to prepare healthy recipes that are USDA-approved.

The University of Mississippi Medical Center opened the Kathy and Joe Sanderson Tower at Children's of Mississippi, more than doubling square footage for pediatric care at UMMC. The seven-story tower's clinical, imaging and surgical areas opened Nov. 2; a floor of private pediatric intensive care rooms followed Nov. 3. Two floors of private neonatal intensive care rooms, where parents can stay with their babies as they grow and heal, opened Nov. 4. Named for Sanderson Farms CEO and board chair Joe Sanderson and his wife, Kathy, the tower complements the inpatient floors of the Blair E. Batson Tower. The two towers form the state's only children's hospital. The Campaign for Children's of Mississippi, the philanthropic drive to help fund the tower launched with a $10 million personal gift from the Sandersons in 2016, has raised more than 84 percent of its $100 million goal.

For more than 50 years, The University of Southern Mississippi has served children with disabilities through the DuBard School for Language Disorders and The Children's Center for Communication and Development. Founded in 1962, the DuBard School offers a full-time enrollment program for children with severe language-speech disorders, providing oral communication and academic skills necessary to be independent and successful in a traditional school environment. Founded in 1974, The Children's Center provides communicative and developmental transdisciplinary services to infants, toddlers and preschoolers with a wide variety of special needs and diagnoses, including Down syndrome and autism spectrum disorder, among others.

The Hamilton-White Child Development Center at Delta State University provides preparation for early childhood educators who will in turn serve the Mississippi Delta region. Accredited by the National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), the program provides a laboratory setting that allows students to hone their skills in childcare and education in a real-life setting. In the Mississippi Delta, with its economic and health disparities, the Center is pivotal to providing a foundation for the type of early childhood education that is essential to giving children a good start in life.

Jackson State University's College of Education (COE) is using a five-year $1.25 million grant to train teachers of visually impaired students in the South. U.S. data reveal there is a critical need for certified profession-ready teachers locally, statewide and nationally in this field. The Office of Special Education Programs has a goal to produce 30 teachers as part of the federal department's Deep South Synergy Training Teachers of the Visually Impaired Project. The COE is a leading producer of African-American graduates in education. Many graduates become k-12 educators helping to develop the minds of Mississippi's youth. Adrienne McDowell, an alum of JSU's COE, was named JPS Teacher of the Year in 2019. McDowell's efforts moved her bottom 25-percentile students from minimal to passing on the 2017-2018 English state tests.

Mississippi State's T.K. Martin Center for Technology and Disability is a one-of-a-kind haven for families in the Magnolia State who are seeking ways to release the potential of children with disabilities. A specialized, diverse team of educators, speech pathologists, occupational and physical therapists, psychologists, and rehabilitation and biomedical engineers take a comprehensive approach in using technological solutions to remove barriers to mobility, hearing, visual, communication and cognitive impairments. Adaptive computer laboratories, education and rehabilitation programs, a seating and mobility center, and specialized evaluation rooms are only a few of the services that can help children realize full lives with countless possibilities.

The Mississippi State University Extension Service serves children and their families and teachers with a range of resources. Mississippi 4-H offers youth development activities for ages 5 to 18, and thousands of children engage in virtual and in-person 4-H activities and programs. Whether offering support in classrooms or training young people in leadership and social skills in after-school programs, Extension's 4-H program prepares the leaders of tomorrow. Extension offers Head Start programs along the Gulf Coast, serving dozens of families with remote and in-person services, including providing learning supplies for children, activity guides for parents, and family consultations. Extension's Rural Medical and Science Scholars program for rising high school seniors prepares future health-care professionals. With 41 program graduates now in residency or private practice, 71 percent of participants pursue health-related careers.

The Mississippi Early Childhood Inclusion Center (MECIC) named Mississippi University for Women's Child and Parent Development Center (CPDC) the Endorsed Center of the Year for 2020. Each year, one licensed Mississippi Early Childhood Center receives the MECIC award for building an inclusive environment to support children and families with special needs. CPDC also received social-emotional, developmental, inclusive materials and manipulatives. The W also received a $40,000 grant from the Rotary Club of Columbus to launch Bright From the Start, a community-based collaboration between the organization and The W's School of Education to prepare children to start school happy, healthy and equipped to succeed. The partnership supports local preschools, Lowndes County families with children from birth to age 5 and The W's Early Childhood Development program.

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The Mississippi Board of Trustees of State Institutions of Higher Learning governs the public universities in Mississippi, including Alcorn State University; Delta State University; Jackson State University; Mississippi State University including the Mississippi State University Division of Agriculture, Forestry and Veterinary Medicine; Mississippi University for Women; Mississippi Valley State University; the University of Mississippi including the University of Mississippi Medical Center; and the University of Southern Mississippi.

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