Zhang: Why do students come to MSMS?

Christina Zhang, Staff Writer

Niche ranks the Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science as the No. 1 public school in Mississippi and among the top 20 public schools in the nation. Students here get to live a pre-college lifestyle one filled with dorm shopping, instant ramen packets and waiting for your turn in the shower. It is understandable why any sophomore would test their luck and apply to the school because above all else, MSMS can give any student what they want: a chance at excellence. But oftentimes buried within this standard of excellence are the stories of students who come to MSMS largely because of external societal reasons. 

In a Microsoft form sent out to the student body, students gave reasons they came to MSMS. The top seven responses as ordered from most selected to least selected were: better classes, college application boost, to get away from their home environment, the opportunity to form true friendships, other and pressured by family.

As one analyzes the responses to understand the context of these answers, they soon become cognizant of the mindset a sophomore may have when applying to MSMS. The top two answers are both involved with academics something that should be anticipated. Beyond academics, students often come to MSMS to find a new beginning. Although situations like this aren’t as openly talked about on campus, it is a prevalent case within the student body.

One junior from DeSoto County explained his reasoning for coming to MSMS aside from academics. For him, coming to MSMS has almost been a preventative measure from developing religious trauma syndrome.

“I haven’t really expressed the idea that I believe in something separate from what my entire family believes,” he said. “That just creates tension, because they don’t see it; they still view me as one of them, but I still see that difference. If I were to potentially reveal what I actually [believe in], I’ll get punished very hard because of it.”

MSMS has created some comfort in this student’s disaffiliation from his religion.

“It might have been one of the days during orientation when we had to go into separate categories of race, religion, ethnicity… I think that day I realized there are other kids like me, and as soon [as I did], I felt more welcome, and I thought this is where I want to be,” he said.

A senior from Greenwood said her decision to apply for MSMS was a form of escapism from different problems lying in her hometown.

“My own house life wasn’t one that came with a lot of money or privilege. Coming here, a lot of the facilities I was given were more than anything I would be able to do at home on my own,” she said. “That actually was one of my main factors in applying to MSMS. Once I figured out this was a different atmosphere for me, I felt like it could help me a lot mentally. I would be able to handle different things on my own.”

The senior also explained how being at MSMS allowed her to become more social. Students at MSMS are often challenged to break out of their shells to form close and long-lasting friendships with their peers. 

“I think I would’ve been more secluded in the old situation I was in,” she said. “I was able to find that everybody was into being friends with more people and [there are] less communities of toxicity. I was also able to meet a bunch of friends.”

Moreover, a large contributing factor in applying to MSMS has been the drastic culture of acceptance for students of different sexualities compared to other Mississippi high schools. A junior from a small town said this was a determinant for her application.

“I am decidedly not straight. At my old school, if people knew, I would get bullied, and my family would probably not be happy,” she said. “But here, I’m actually comfortable with people knowing. At my old school, the only people who knew were my closest friends. Here, I’m not exactly loud about it, but if someone directly asks me what my sexuality is, I’ll be honest.”

The student focused on different aspects of student life that contribute to her feelings of comfort.

“I would say the school student body is generally more progressive than the environment I came from. Also, the faculty itself most teachers make at least a little effort to make students of different sexualities and gender identities feel more included. There’s also a [Gender Sexuality Alliance club], which is a huge difference from my old school,” she said. 

While MSMS is celebrated for its powerful academics, the social provisions the school gives students from all areas around the state are equally as remarkable. Between the freedom of religion and self-expression, the reassuring qualities students find on campus can hopefully be conserved year after year.