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Our Mission


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Our Mission


Our Mission

Our mission is to create a corps of academically capable, socially conscious, and mentally disciplined young leaders in Meridian, Mississippi.

Our Vision

We envision the day when young people growing up in Meridian, Mississippi, have the support and resources to achieve the same educational opportunities as children anywhere in America.

Our Values

Commitment to LEADership
At the Meridian Freedom Project, we believe education is the seed of freedom. When our students complete their Fellowship with us and graduate from high school, our goal is for each of them to have as many choices for their futures as possible.  That’s what freedom is, the ability to make choices.

Meridian is the home to so many bright and creative young leaders, and we are grateful to be able to work year-round with our Freedom Fellows and their families.  We seek to provide an achievement-oriented atmosphere where Freedom Fellows feel seen, heard, valued, and free to make choices.  Our Freedom Fellows are not just the leaders of the future, they are leaders today. 

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Our History


Our History


The Meridian Freedom Project is the first affiliate and expansion site of the Sunflower County Freedom Project, est. 1998.

In 1998, three Teach for America alumni founded the Sunflower County Freedom Project, a program whose success 13 years later would catch the eye of concerned community members in Meridian, Mississippi.  

In 2012, concerned community members in Meridian were looking for new programs that could offer opportunities to local students. When searching for a project to complete her commitment to Parents for Public Schools, Amy Elliott was directed to the Sunflower County Freedom Project. What made the Sunflower program successful and compelling was its culture of student leadership and achievement and its very strong links to Teach for America. After taking a group of Meridianites to visit Sunflower in the summer of that year, Amy and the group were immediately hooked. 

Back in Meridian, Amy formed a partnership with Dr. William F. Scaggs, President Emeritus of Meridian Community College, and Flo Bradley, CEO of FloBradley.com, to create a new Meridian Freedom Project. 

The three co-founders took their message to the businesses and organizations in the Meridian area. With the support of Parents for Public Schools, The Montgomery Institute, The Phil Hardin Foundation, and AT&T, Amy, Dr. Scaggs, adn Flo worked with the founders in Sunflower to create the Freedom Project Network, an agreement that would recognize Meridian as the first affiliate and expansion site of the Sunflower County Freedom Project. 

The immediate and generous financial support of The Phil Hardin Foundation through a matching grant challenge, answered by The Montgomery Institute, Weidmann's, Cater's Market, and other individuals, meant the Meridian Freedom Project could be formally launched. 

In February 2013, the Meridian Freedom Project held a planning summit to initiate the resource development and hiring process. In early spring 2013, the Freedom Project hired a Program Development Director, and later, Founding Director, Anna Stephenson.  With the generous support and partnership of the Meridian Community College, The Montgomery Institute, the Meridian Community and Sunflower leadership, the Meridian Freedom Project opened its doors in June 2014 with their inaugural Freedom Summer for 30 Meridian Public School students, grades 6-8.

To learn more about the Sunflower County Freedom Project, visit their website at the link below. 

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Our Staff


Our Staff


Anna Stephenson

DIRECTOR

Anna grew up in Tulsa, Oklahoma, and she is the daughter of two proud native Mississippians – one from Tunica, the other from Meridian.  Anna is a 2009 graduate of Baylor University in Waco, Texas and holds a degree in English Literature.  Prior to joining the Meridian Freedom Project, Anna spent four years teaching high school English at Lakeside High School in Lake Village, Arkansas, where she was Department Chair and helped re-establish an AP program for her students.  Outside of the classroom, she was a co-founder of Delta Horizons, an organization created for Lakeside High School students that offers experiential learning and service trips for students interested in expanding their horizons.


ASHA EL-SHAIR

PROGRAM DIRECTOR

Asha was born and raised in Atlanta, Georgia. She is a proud 2008 graduate of North Carolina Agricultural and Technical State University, earning a BFA in Professional Theater. Asha has worked with young people in a variety of settings before coming to the Meridian Freedom Project. She worked as a counselor-teacher for Eckerd Youth Alternatives in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, where she noticed that academic struggles often contribute to legal troubles. This was a turning point for Asha, leading her to take a job at Clarksdale High School. During her three years teaching biology at Clarksdale High School, Asha was recognized as Teacher of the Year for her commitment to her students.

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Executive Council


Executive Council


The MFP Executive Council

Amy Elliot, Chair

Dr. Bill Scaggs

Flo Bradley

Stephanie Wright

Chris Bowers

Meagan Linton, Attorney


AMY ELLIOT

CO-FOUNDER, EXECUTIVE COUNCIL CHAIR

Parents for Public Schools Graduate

Amy Elliott is the lead founder and Executive Council Chair of the Meridian Freedom Project.  With a Bachelor’s degree in nursing from the University of Southern Mississippi and a background in fundraising and teaching, she has always been drawn to caring for others.  She believes that music, drawing, and dance are critical to helping children find their voice, and through the Meridian Freedom Project, her vision to give every child a voice and opportunity to design their future through both academic and creative expression has begun. 

In addition to being an advocate for other people’s children, she has two of her own, Matthew and Mary Catherine.  They, along with her husband, William, inspire and encourage her every day to live into her potential and follow her passion.


DR. William F. "BILL" SCAGGS

CO-FOUNDER

Meridian Community College President-Emeritus, Bill Scaggs came to Meridian in 1963 and served MCC until his retirement in 1998. A Florida native, Bill graduated Lake Wales High School in 1953 and enrolled at the University of Florida, earning an Associate of Arts in 1955 and a BSJ in 1957. By chance he became a teacher at his hometown high school and completed his MA at Stetson University in 1961.

From the perspective of some 50-plus years, the high point of the Stetson experience was the 7:30 a.m. class in “Therapeutic Counseling” where Bill Scaggs and Sally Boureau met. Bill headed back to the Gator Swamp for further study focused on educational policy research and community colleges as gateways to opportunity and Sally headed back to Coral Gables to plan the October 28, 1961, wedding.

So in 1963, Bill as a newly minted doctor of education, and Sally, a newly minted mother, headed to Meridian to gain a couple of years experience as a prelude to an imagined career in university teaching and research. Bonita Lakes water was addictive. MCC grew and the Scaggs family grew. Four children, all MHS and MCC grads, and ten grandchildren later, Bill and Sally are still in Meridian sharing their one-bedroom home with Spenser, a come-up cat of distinction.

Bill’s 35-year tenure at MCC brought opportunities to serve this community and his community college “family” beyond Meridian. One of the lessons Bill claims to have learned is that “being a critic, even a loving critic, is easy; being an agent of change is very hard.” He enjoys reminding his college and university friends that “college building is easy compared to community building, but both require servant leaders.”

In his view, the Meridian Freedom Project seeks to support formation of young leaders willing to travel the hard road toward community building as they carry the LEAD principles forward. 


FLO BRADLEY

CO-FOUNDER

Flo Bradley is a successful entrepreneur and empowerment coach. Born in Wakefield, Massachusetts, she began her career in the financial services arena after graduating with honors with a BA in Political Science from Boston University, where she met her husband, Robert Bradley. In Boston, she juggled a traditional 9-to-5 job while dancing professionally with various performance companies. This is where she gained a taste of what lay beyond the confines of a cubical as well as where she developed a passion for what nutrition could do for one's body and soul. When her college sweetheart decided to serve his country as a U.S. Marine Corps fighter pilot, she left her job to follow her heart and start life with him. Before leaving her home she wrote the following Personal Mission Statement: I want to be a lover of life. To embrace the beauty of my life’s journey, taking risks if it means achieving my goals. Even if the path isn’t straight or lit and I stumble over rocks and bumps that send me crashing to the ground, I promise to never stay down. While there is still sweet breath marinating my lungs, I’ll rise, retrace my steps, learn the root of my fall, change it, avoid it, conquer it and move on. My heart, I’ll fill it with love -- of family, relationships and faith in the Lord. This will help me in my journey. Material wealth is not important to me. I just want the fruits of my labor to yield happiness, not only for me but for everyone that I encounter. I want to be a mentor to the generations after me. Overall, whatever I do . . . I want to leave a legacy of living on purpose with purpose. She lives this mission statement and has explored so many passions from developing operations for a non profit to acting in commercials and on stage.  As a mobile fitness and nutrition coach, she assists clients to make better choices for their health as she knows that the body is the only place where we have to live, and keeping it in optimal health is paramount.

Still her best and favorite achievements are her two children, Avrey and Bryce, and the life she shares with her husband.


STEPHANIE WRIGHT

Stephanie Eubanks-Wright, educator and mentor, has been a resident of Meridian since 2008.  She received her Bachelors degree in Education and later, a Masters in Education and Leadership from Delta State University. 

After college, Stephanie returned to her hometown in the Mississippi Delta to begin her career as a teacher, but after marrying her husband Benny, relocated to Meridian. As a teacher in Meridian Public Schools, Stephanie worked as a middle school teacher and later become Lead Administrator for the Alternative School (K-5).   Stephanie has an expansive background in teaching all subject areas in middle school and students with special needs.  She has taught and served her community, both in Mississippi and in Georgia.

During her first few years of teaching, she discovered that there was a missing to piece to the puzzle.  Between school each day and home each night, many of her students were not receiving the support and guidance they needed to be successful learners. As much as the concept of teaching the “whole child” was popular, she did not have a whole child to teach. The missing piece was evident: after school activities that promoted mentorship, and special programs that were tailored to a child's talents and interests.  As a result, Stephanie has founded and co-founded such projects as GIRL POWER, Teens Taking the LEAD and the Fellowship of Southern Christian Families.

Over the years, Stephanie has invested much of her expertise in education as a coordinator, director and consultant to local youth programs and agencies to enhance academic and social achievement. She has always shared a passion to teach, expose, and influence students to discover their potential. Her favorite phrase is “teachable moment” and she seeks to instill in each child she meets the desire to take advantage of any opportunity that could enhance his/her growth.  The Meridian Freedom Project captures the very essence of linking education with greater opportunities; hence, the freedom to choose your path. Her life’s mission is to live a well-balanced life that is driven by the Christian principles to serve and love all.

Stephanie is married to Dr. Benny Wright, a graduate of Meridian High.  They have four girls, Amber, Madison, Annah-Bryce, and Bailee.


CHRIS BOWERS

Chris is a local business person, working in the retail and finance industry.  He was born and raised in Meridian, attending Parkview Elementary, Magnolia Elementary, and finally Meridian High School, before moving on to graduate and post-graduate studies at Millsaps College and Asbury Theological Seminary respectively.  Prior to re-entering the business world with his family, he worked with the United Methodist Church, serving as a Disaster Response Coordinator during Katrina recovery, followed by two years of parish ministry.  Currently Chris serves as an Elder at Jubilee Mennonite Church, just a few blocks from the Lead Center. 

Over the years, Chris has served as a children’s pastor, youth pastor, youth Sunday school teacher, youth mentor for Community of Hope, and a youth sponsor for various churches.  His heart for children and youth extends to his own home, where he is the dad of three children: Lucy, Grace, and Simon.  He has been married to the love of his life, Jennifer, a high school teacher among other things. He has deep family roots in the Meridian community, where most of his family continues to live and work.   

After visiting Meridian Freedom Project’s sister organization, Sunflower County Freedom Project, Chris found himself drawn into this new endeavor.  “Growing up in Meridian it was always clear that there were divisions between people," said Chris, “whether those divisions were racial, economic, educational, or otherwise.  In ministry, I found myself often working to bridge those divides, while serving those with the fewest resources and opportunities.  When I discovered Meridian Freedom Project I found a natural fit for my own passions.  I believe the potential of Meridian Freedom Project to impact lives in Meridian is enormous, and I am simply grateful to play a small part."

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COMMUNITY Advisory Council


COMMUNITY Advisory Council


The Meridian Freedom Project is fortunate to have the support of many community members, representing a diverse array of experiences, professions, and perspectives.  We are so grateful for their support and partnership.


Nick Allen
Freedom Project Network Board; Former Executive Director, Sunflower County Freedom Project

Bill Crawford
President, The Montgomery Institute

Becky Glover
Community Foundation of East Mississippi

Elizabeth Wilson Harris
Former Director of Alumni Partnerships, Teach For America

James Hearn
Parents for Public Schools Graduate; Hearn & Hearn Yard Service

Paris Hearn 
Paris Hearn Media

Pattie Hearn
Parents for Public Schools Graduate

Shanda Lewis
Attorney; Educator

Joshua Maeda
Professor, MCC

Julie Martin
Nurse

Duane Maust
Co-Pastor, Jubilee Mennonite Church; Parents for Public Schools Graduate; Meridian Public School Board

Elaine Maust
Co-Pastor, Jubilee Mennonite Church

Robin Miles
Assistant Superintendent, Meridian Public Schools

Tory Murray
Parent; Former Welfare Counselor, Policies Studies Inc.

Chris Myers-Asch 
Co-founder, Sunflower County Freedom Project; History Professor, University of Maine, Augusta

Chris Perkins
Sunflower County Freedom Project alumnus; Higher Achievement, Washington D.C.

Richelle Putnam
Artist/Writer; President, Mississippi Writers’ Guild; Parents for Public Schools Graduate

Shawn Raymond
Co-founder, Sunflower County Freedom Project; Attorney

Nita Rudy
Program Director, Parents for Public Schools, National Office

Cedric Ruffin
Freedom 64

C.D. Smith
Board Chair, The Montgomery Institute; AT&T; Board Chair, IHL; Board Chair, EMBDC

Alvin Taylor 
Superintendent, Meridian Public Schools

Michael VanVeckhoven 
Meridian Public School Board

Saveda Williams
Nurse

Tina Williams 
Parents for Public Schools Graduate

Horatio Wilson
Parent; President, Poplar Springs PTA; Parents for Public Schools Graduate

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The Montgomery Institute & MERIDIAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE


The MFP is a sponsored program of Meridian Community College, operated in partnership with The Montgomery Institute

The Montgomery Institute & MERIDIAN COMMUNITY COLLEGE


The MFP is a sponsored program of Meridian Community College, operated in partnership with The Montgomery Institute

Our close partnership with Meridian Community College (MCC) and The Montgomery Institute (TMI) allows MFP leadership to focus on what matters most: our kids and the opportunities we provide for them. Their support and partnership is invaluable to our work.

Meridian Community College partners with the MFP to provide academic accreditation and accountability for academic standards and programs at the MFP.  Aside from academic support, MCC goes above and beyond to support Freedom Fellows by allowing us access to spaces on campus, housing for our summer interns, and relationships with an incredible group of leaders, deeply rooted in a vision of success for our Meridian students. 

The Montgomery Institute is the fiscal agent and operating partner for the Meridian Freedom Project.  Click below to learn more about the Montgomery Institute and their leadership.

The mission of The Montgomery Institute is to “upbuild the people and places of the East Mississippi and West Alabama region guided by the leadership legacy of G. V. ‘Sonny’ Montgomery.”

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Contact Us


Meridian Freedom Project
2415 8th Street
Meridian, MS 39301

meridianfreedomproject@gmail.com

Safely subscribe to our e-blast here.

Contact Us


Meridian Freedom Project
2415 8th Street
Meridian, MS 39301

meridianfreedomproject@gmail.com

Safely subscribe to our e-blast here.

 

email

Anna Stephenson, Director // astephenson.mfp@gmail.com

meridianfreedomproject@gmail.com

Phone

PH // (601) 207-5121
 

office hours

Monday to Friday // 11:00am - 3:00pm
 

Our Sister Projects

The Sunflower County Freedom Project
sunflowerfreedom.org

The Rosedale Freedom Project

rosedalefreedom.org