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Released July 13, 2004


HATTIESBURG -- Officials from the Moss Point School District met Tuesday with University of Southern Mississippi President Dr. Shelby Thames to discuss the creation of a new polymer science program at Moss Point High School.

Thames, founder and former head of the internationally known Polymer Science Institute at Southern Miss, is helping to develop the two-year program by lending his technical expertise. He has also pledged the physical and intellectual resources of the university's polymer science program.

"This is a tremendous program they've developed for the students in Moss Point, and I'm delighted to see this happening. I wish more and more high schools would do what Moss Point is doing," Thames said.

Thames said the university will provide the program with experiments, teacher training and excess equipment that could be used for educational purposes.

"Anything they need, whether it's physical or brainpower, we'll certainly be willing to provide it, and be delighted to do so," he said.

When classes begin this fall, Moss Point will become the third high school in the state to teach polymer science courses. The goal of the program, according to Dr. Tressie Harper, Moss Point Schools superintendent, is both to prepare students for opportunities within the local polymer workforce and to set them on the path to higher education, preferably at Southern Miss.

"We feel that there is a lot of wisdom that resides here at this institution under Dr. Thames, and we would like to work parallel to the success of Southern Miss and use that wisdom to make sure we go forward in a positive way," said Harper, a Southern Miss alumna.

"We know (Southern Miss) is historic in terms of polymer science, and you can't say the name without having Dr. Thames involved in the creation of that, so we put in a call to him to let him know our desire for a program,"

The school district did some preliminary work last year with the Polymer Science Institute to collect data and determine the needs and resources to achieve the program. The only course prerequisite for students entering the program is algebra. Students will earn one credit for each class.

"We will start them at a very basic level because coming into the program, most of them know nothing of polymers," said Dr. Senita Walker, vocational education director at Moss Point. "From there we will move into heavier things, like creating (polymers) and job internships."

Walker said the curriculum will be aligned with Southern Miss' so that graduating students who wish to further their education at Southern Miss can make a smooth transition.

"We also want to build some good workforce skills so that no matter what they decide to do, they'll be successful in life," Walker said.

Thames said by having the chance to take polymer science courses while still in high school, students can be "one in a million."

"There just aren't many high schools doing what Dr. Harper and Dr. Walker are doing down in Moss Point," Thames said.


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July 23, 2004 10:38 AM