Amy Burks-Berry has been named interim director of Jackson State University’s Mississippi Learning Institute, which works with local schools and the America Reads Mississippi-AmeriCorps Program to improve outcomes in teaching and student learning.
MLI was established in 2001. Since then, MLI has been successful in improving the performance of public school children from underserved populations on standardized tests by creating innovative pedagogies and instructional methods.
Dr. Daniel Watkins, dean of the College of Education and Human Development, said Burks-Berry, who has a B.S. and master’s in Reading Education from JSU and a certificate in Leadership Development from Mississippi State University, brings solid experience to the position.
“Ms. Burks-Berry has a keen understanding of the literacy needs in public schools,” he said.
Burks-Berry said there’s been a slight shift in recent years to focus on MLI’s community advocacy.
“We recognize that community plays a vital role. We serve as the venue to bring all stakeholders to the table as we address community needs.”
Burks-Berry said MLI works with Alignment Jackson, an initiative spearheaded by the United Way and the city of Jackson in which numerous groups are brought together to support the needs of the public school district.
“A community agency may not be able to give you money, but they can give you contacts. They can give you a venue. They can connect you to the resources. That creates ownership, and then everyone is resonsible.”
With her four staff members, Burks-Berry has been busy planning a town hall meeting to evaluate MLI’s programming as it relates to the objectives of the institute’s major funder, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation. The foundation’s objectives include academic achievement, career success, civic engagement and the overall well-being of young men of color.
One of MLI’s premier programs is Call Me Mister. Funded by the Kellogg Foundation, the program provides scholarships, mentoring and leadership development to black male students who plan to teach in elementary schools in Mississippi after graduation.
STARS, Sistas Teaching and Raising Sons, is an intervention program for single moms, she said.
“It’s designed to address literacy needs as they relate to what parents are doing with their young males at home,” she said.
Another program is in development. Mentoring Young Men of Color (MY MOC) will address the needs of black male students at Blackburn Middle School initially before expanding to other schools, she said.
MLI is currently working with the Coalition of Schools Educating Boys of Color on a national summit that will be held at JSU April 23-25.
“That’s an opportunity for stakeholders from various learning communities in pre-K through 12 to discuss academic achievement for boys of color and make sure we’re doing what we need to prepare them for the future,” she says.