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Released April 15, 2005

By Chinika Hood

HATTIESBURG -- The University of Southern Mississippi Student Support Services Program received good news from the U.S. Department of Education with the announcement that its federal funding has been renewed for four more years.

The nearly $979,000 grant, awarded in March, will aid the program’s efforts to help first-generation students from low-income families and students battling physical or learning disabilities excel in college and beyond.

“Our mission is to provide assistance—both academic and personal—to students who need a little extra help negotiating university life,” said Susan Bourland, student support services director.

“We want students to be successful in their classes and to graduate. Then, they can go on to be productive members of the community.”

To land the grant, SSS had to prove the need for its program, showcase its long-term objectives and institutional commitment—a commitment that freshman Christina Downs says is paying off for her.

“It’s (SSS) been a great help to me; everyone is very friendly,” said Downs, who looks to become the first college graduate in her family and is one of 165 participants of the program. “I am learning a lot, including how to manage my study time.”

Since the program’s 1997 debut, it has provided an array of services to students, including direct financial assistance to undergraduates receiving Federal Pell Grants, academic and personal counseling, tutorials, leadership workshops, cultural enrichment, supplemental instruction and much more. SSS also hands out twenty $510 scholarships each year to active freshman and sophomore participants.

Bourland said none of this would be possible without help from the federal government. “Without federal funding, the program and our ability to continue in our present form would be in jeopardy,” she said.

SSS’ first grant was written by retired dean of student services, Dr. Joanne Stevens. The grant issued by the U.S. Department of Education will be disbursed over a period of four years with the first year’s handout totaling $244,735. Continuation of the grant is determined upon submission of a yearly performance report to the Department of Education.

For more information about the grant or the services provided by Southern Miss’ Student Support Services Program, please contact Director Susan Bourland at (601) 266-6910.


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May 16, 2005 3:12 PM