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Mississippi College graduates love working with children at the Magnolia Speech School.

That’s the case every day at the United Way-supported non-profit in Jackson. It’s among more than 30 agencies in metro Jackson that Mississippi College faculty and staff will support in their $25,000 United Way fund drive this fall.

It’s literally impossible to avoid encountering a Mississippi College graduate on the campus at 733 Flag Chapel Road. The school employs eight MC alumni, whether they are teachers, therapists or both.

A dyslexia therapist, Nancy Davis serves as the supervisor of the school’s Language Department. “I have seen many children and their parents walk through our doors for their first time,” says the Clinton resident.

“Many are frustrated, scared and afraid. How different it is when they leave…I see smiles and tears of happiness,” notes the school employee since 1981. Students develop an improved self-image as they are learning and succeeding in classrooms.

“Our children are taught to read, write and comprehend language using a multi-sensory learning system. Our goal is for every child at Magnolia to be mainstreamed into a public or private school and be able to function with little or no help,” Davis says.

What’s her favorite thing about the Magnolia Speech School? “Miracles happen every day,” says Davis, who received her master’s in dyslexia therapy at Mississippi College in 2008.

Other educators with MC diplomas are just as passionate about their work on the Jackson campus. “What I like most about Magnolia Speech School is that for the past 60 years, it has helped many children learn to communicate through speech and language and be able to express their thoughts, wants, needs and feelings,” says Sharon Smathers.

“Along with reading, math, and other academics, Magnolia Speech School helped open doors for its students to be able to follow their greatest dreams,” Smathers said. A Raymond resident, the Magnolia teacher received her Mississippi College master’s degree in the education of the hearing impaired in 1982.

Magnolia Speech School Executive Director Valerie Linn feels truly blessed to have such a remarkable and hard-working staff aboard. She also believes her school is fortunate to receive such strong support from United Way of the Capital Area.

Without the financial backing of United Way, “we would not be able to fully support the individualized programs and specialized instruction we offer to our students,” Linn said.

United Way has partnered with Magnolia Speech School for years to help children with communicative disorders reach their full potential in spoken language and literacy. Thanks to donations throughout metro Jackson, United Way support for the Magnolia Speech School amounts to $25,000 annually.

The Mississippi school was founded in 1956 by Libba Matthews, whose son was diagnosed with hearing loss as an infant. Magnolia Speech School serves children throughout the state. This year, the school enrolls 70 children, ages one to 13 years old. The school also assists more than 35 families whose babies (newborns through age three) are diagnosed as deaf or hard of hearing. New additions to the Jackson school this year include an upgraded playground, a remodeled library and a computer lab. Parents of children at the private school only pay a fraction of the tuition due to dollars coming from United Way campaigns.

MC graduate Cheryl Thornton, department supervisor in listening and spoken language, sums up what colleagues are saying as they help young students achieve their potential. “We do not work for the money; we work because of the passion in our hearts!”

For more information about MC’s United Way campaign, contact campus coordinator Shari Barnes at sbarnes@mc.edu or 601-925-3267. Magnolia Speech School executive director Valerie Linn can be contacted at 601-922-5530.

Photo: Magnolia Speech School staff

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Patrice, wife of Greg Boykin & mother of two sons, Bradley & Alex, is a Magee hometown girl. Patrice is retiring after 25 years in the insurance industry and 23 of those years were with State Farm Insurance in Magee. She is very active in the community serving as Secretary for the Magee Touchdown Club and Vice President of the MS Scholars of Simpson County. Multiple times, Patrice was named Parent of the Year for Magee Schools as well as District Parent of the Year. Patrice & her family are members of New Hope Baptist Church.

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