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Feeling like a proud papa because of NEXT success

Once again, I am so proud of the Mississippi Business Journal organization that I just had to write this somewhat self-serving column. For the third autumn in a row, we have shipped approximately 100,000 copies of NEXT — A Guide to Life After High School to every 10th, 11th and 12th grader in Mississippi. You’ve heard me say it before, but NEXT really does get better each year.

And beginning this year, the MBJ awarded $1,000 scholarships to three Mississippi high school seniors. We took recommendations from school counselors throughout the state who could nominate one of their students, and then a random drawing was held to determine the three scholarship recipients.

Since NEXT is distributed directly to Mississippi students and not inserted in MBJ, many of you probably have no idea what I’m talking about. Perhaps a few words of explanation would be helpful.

Some years ago our friend Jeff Hankins, publisher of Arkansas Business, had the idea to put together a comprehensive resource for high school students to help them plan their future after high school. The publication was successful and word spread to other business journals around the country. Soon, a dozen or more papers were putting out NEXT in their states. We contemplated doing it ourselves for several years and decided to make the plunge in 2004. This was no small decision since the printing and distribution costs amount to just over $100,000, a large bite for a small business to chew. Nonetheless, we did it and it was well received last year.

Having never attempted to publish anything other than business stories, we were faced with real some obstacles. One challenge that we had to overcome is adjusting our writing style to appeal to high school kids. Our MBJ readers are pretty sophisticated, and we know how to write for them.

However, to keep the interest of teenagers, we had to adjust our style to their tastes. Plenty of photos and full-color design played a critical role.

NEXT offers insight and guidance about programs available at all the community colleges, colleges, universities and technical schools. It also describes what skills are needed to pursue various careers, both academic and technical.

Further, approximate salaries and projected job demand are explained as well as some first person accounts of what a work day on various jobs is like. All of the kids pictured in NEXT are Mississippi students and all stories are written by our writers and are specific to Mississippi.

At present, NEXT has only been “on the street” for a couple of weeks and the response has been gratifying. Comments from school counselors have been encouraging, to say the least.

One rated NEXT as “five star” and another commented that most of the information was available in various publications but NEXT brought it altogether in one place. More than 500 student response cards have been received with more coming every day.

NEXT is a partnership between the Mississippi Business Journal and the Mississippi Department of Education. It is financed through sponsorships from several state agencies and private advertising. The title sponsor for NEXT is the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. Supporting sponsors are: the Mississippi Secretary of State, the State Board for Community and Junior Colleges and the Mississippi Office of Student Financial Aid.

Our advertisers cover the gamut from colleges to the National Guard, from Junior Achievement to M & F Bank and from the Mississippi Society of CPAs to USA Funds. They add depth to our stories and help illustrate the myriad choices our high school kids have available.

It’s not often when we are able to do something that really makes a difference in our community. I am convinced that NEXT is just such an opportunity, and I am proud and thankful to have a small part in changing lives for thousands of our Mississippi youngsters.

We want to express our deepest appreciation to our sponsors and advertisers for making NEXT possible. They have invested major dollars to provide our high school kids a resource for planning their futures.

Thought for the Moment

Failures are like skinned knees — painful, but superficial.
— H. Ross Perot

Joe D. Jones, CPA (retired), is publisher of the Mississippi Business Journal. Contact him at cpajones@msbusiness.com.


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