Even with the setbacks that COVID-19 has caused, the ASEED program (Achieving Sustainability through Education and Economic Development Solutions), organized by North Montgomery County Citizens United for Prosperity, is still determined to make a difference in the community of Duck Hill and across North Mississippi in every way that it can.
Most recently, a leadership institute focused on educating its members on the functions and practices of local government was created as of March 2020. As of now, the leadership institute consists of 25 youth and 25 adult members from across North Mississippi.
To adjust to the restrictions that COVID-19 has caused, MCUP is developing an online educational format for the leadership institute until it is safe to meet in person. However, an assessment conducted by the group concluded that this may be problematic because many in the community do not have a reliable internet nor the devices necessary to fully transition the program to an online capacity.
As part of this same program, SMART (Science, Math, Art, Reading, and Technology) is being set up in the hopes of giving the youth of the surrounding communities a more well-rounded education as well as helping students achieve higher grades in school through group study sessions.
Although the year 2020 has posed many challenges for the organization, since its establishment in 2018, MCUP has created many programs and projects that have already made a lasting impact on the community of Duck Hill.
Phase one of MCUP’s initiative to repair Duck Hill’s faulty drainage system was completed late last year. Prior to its completion, heavy rain and thunderstorms caused Duck Hill’s streets to flood, damaging several of the buildings downtown. With the new improvements, floodwaters which used to take hours to recede are now under control within minutes.
Phase two of MCUP’s initiative is centered around the redevelopment of Duck Hill’s Main Street and the restoration of the historic Binford High School.
Executive Director of MCUP Romona Taylor Williams said, “The Binford High School would be repurposed into a center for arts and culture. It could be used as an intergenerational workspace, art gallery, and historic tourist destination. It is our hope to jumpstart economic development in Duck Hill.”
The restoration of the building is in partnership with PREP (Preserving and Restoring Eagle Pride) lead by Melba Rodgers, who was key in saving the old high school from being demolished by the city.
“It is our mission is to tell the good, bad, and ugly of Duck Hill’s history. With that in mind, once the renovation of the Binford High School is complete, it will be renamed the Lucie E. Campbell and Lloyd T. Binford Center for Art, Culture, and Social Impact. Mr. Binford being the infamous segregationist [and movie censor in Memphis, Tenn., which the high school was originally named for and Mrs. Campbell being a famous African American gospel singer [and composer] from Duck Hill,” Williams said.
The renovation of the old Binford High School is just a small part of a bigger goal to revise the 1975 Duck Hill zoning plan.
“Because the grant that helps fund the ASEED programs ended March 31 of this year, we are looking for community funding and are working to create a capital campaign to help renovate the Binford High School,” Williams said.
In addition to the goal to revitalize Duck Hill’s economy and renew interest in its history and culture, MCUP has also formed the Creek Rangers in the efforts to inspire local youth to give back to the town that they call home.
On top of their volunteer work of cleaning up after the floods, the group of teens has done research into how climate change has affected Duck Hill, visited Atlanta to help repair a two-mile bridge across the Atlanta watershed, and was even selected to take part in the National Geographic Photo Camp.
“MCUP’s Creek Ranger’s Program has helped to instill community pride among the youth,” Williams said.
Sherrell Everett, chairwoman of MCUP and Duck Hill Alderwoman explained, “I saw the poor condition that Duck Hill was in, and I wanted to do something about it. At first, I was content with just working with MCUP, but Mrs. Ramona prompted me to do more by running for the Duck Hill Board of Aldermen. It has been a learning experience, but Mrs. Ramona has helped me along. Our goal was originally to empower the community of Duck Hill, but as we move forward, we have begun to focus on the broader region of North Mississippi. In reality, we could not have done the work we have accomplished without the support of the community.”