Two Spring Initiative students have graduated from Piney Woods School and need help to attend Mississippi State.

Spring Initiative empowers children, youth, and families in Clarksdale and the North Mississippi Delta to overcome adverse academic, social, emotional, and economic circumstances, and systemic inequality through educational interventions; personalized, holistic support; and long-term relationships.

We have been working with the students from our original cohort since August 2011, and this group of then 6th-8th graders are now Juniors and Seniors in high school, with two college freshman who graduated high school in May 2016.

On May 27, 2017 two of these students – Nekirah Betts and QuaMesha Giles – will be graduating from the Piney Woods School, a college prep boarding school just south of Jackson, MS.

Both young women have undergone incredible journeys to get to where they are today. Over the past 4 and 6 years respectively, Spring has been so blessed to partner with QuaMesha and Nekirah in their quest to uncover and build up a future full of meaning, learning, opportunity, excitement, love and joy – for themselves and for the world around them. We have been inspired time and time again by the courage and perseverance they have shown in response to every challenge or potential setback.

There was once a time where the hope or motivation to engage in school was all but lost for either of these young women, but you would never know it now. There was a time when the confidence to ask for help, complete assignments, study for tests, give things a second try, express thoughts and feelings or share creative work seemed like an insurmountable struggle, but you could not guess it now!

Each of these young women has her own story, with specific challenges they have fought to overcome and specific dreams they are fighting to make real. Both Nekirah and QuaMesha could not be more excited to be attending Mississippi State University in the upcoming fall, and we could not be more proud of them.

Nekirah is pursuing a career in architecture, where she plans to apply her undying passion for justice and beauty to the work of designing and creating sustainable, green buildings for communities like her own. QuaMesha, inspired by her own experience – surviving the physical trauma of being shot in the head when she was only ten years old and working to overcome the emotional effects – plans to become a nurse, determined to help others find the healing they need for their own bodies and souls, like she did, and live their lives to the fullest.

Both girls have completed their FAFSA and are taking out the full possible amount of federally subsidized loans as part of their financial aid package for the 2017-2018 Academic School Year. They are also working diligently to apply to a wide range of applicable scholarships, and are hopeful that they will receive positive responses! Even with all of these factors, each future college student is still looking to fill a gap of approximately

$5,000 to cover the cost of tuition, room & board at Mississippi State University for the year. Please contact Anja Thiessen at or (217) 979-6807 if you are interested in making a scholarship contribution to help Nekirah and QuaMesha attend college this coming fall!

Nekirah Betts
QuaMesha Giles