Dorlisa Hutton, a Jackson native, serves as the chief operations officer for SR1. Hutton earned her undergraduate degree in healthcare administration at Jackson State University. She earned her master’s degree in public health from Jackson State and a master’s in biomedical science from the University of Mississippi. Hutton recently spoke with Sun reporter Nikki Rowell about the efforts of SR1 to prepare students for life after high school.
What made you want to get involved with SR1?
“I’ve always been a community person, and by that I mean I’ve always loved giving back. That’s my passion in life. SR1 is a tremendous opportunity. Their whole focus is providing education, health and technology for all. That’s just right up my alley, especially education and health. I believe Mississippi as a whole can be improved if we are able to improve our education system and also our overall health.”
What is SR1?
“SR1 is a nonprofit 501c3 organization. The mission of the organization is to provide education, health and technology to all through science and partnership. What that means for us, especially with our students, we provide college access and success services. So, we use a proven model. It’s called our education model. Our students are provided academic skills, social skills, family and relationship skills, recreation, civic literacy. We just believe in performing and providing services for the whole child. We called it a wholistic approach. It has been very effective. One hundred percent of our students have graduated on time from our high schools and have gone on to enroll in college. We’re very proud of them. We don’t promote one college over another. We have great relationships with all our institutions in Mississippi and institutions in other states. What we like to do is provide our students, starting as early as kindergarten and keeping them until they graduate from high school and enter college, throughout that kindergarten to high school pipeline we are providing all the services they need to be successful in life.”
How did it get started?
“Tamu Green is our founder, president and CEO. He saw a need. He is a graduate of Mississippi State in computer science. He just realized as a student that he wasn’t provided a lot of the opportunities that some of his fellow classmates were. So, he realized that there is a disadvantage among students, so he formed the organization to help close those gaps. Whether it is because of income or gender, he just felt like those areas needed to be closed and overall to effect the economic impact of Mississippi.”
What year was it founded?
How many people are on the SR1 staff?
“Our staff is comprised of five individuals. We also serve as an AmeriCorps site. We focus on education, so we are able to provide service learning opportunities to college level students, whether undergraduate or graduate and retired people who have completed their career but want to give back to their communities. With our AmeriCorps members, we have an educational consultant who trains and monitors them throughout their service. There are approximately 50 AmeriCorps members. They serve in Hinds, Madison and Scott counties. They work directly with the schools in some areas. Our central component with all the counties that we serve is what we call our non-school hour program and that occurs on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday after school and also on Saturdays. During the summer, we have what we call our year-round program, which we host with our partner Millsaps College.”
What counties do you guys work with?
“Hinds, Madison and Scott. We work with various school districts within those counties.”
How do students get connected with you guys?
“There are several ways students can be connected. One method is through the schools we are already serving. Counselors and teachers can recommend students to participate in the program. There is an application process. Once we receive the application, we schedule an interview with the parents and the student. Another method is a parent or a community member can recommend the student. Again, they complete the same application and interview process. The reason for the parent and student interview is, unlike other programs, we expect our students here every time. We need our parents and students to understand that it is a commitment, a year-round commitment. We expect you to be there Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. This is why we have the interviews, just to be sure we are providing services to students who will benefit and will provide the commitment to those services.”
You guys cover a lot of different areas and several services. Can you tell me a bit about what the organization offers for participating students?
“One of our main focuses is STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is not in order to push students into a STEM field, but just how jobs are progressing, it’s one of the fastest-growing segments of the career workforce. So, we want students to have a working knowledge of STEM. We use a lot of robotics and hands-on activities. We also use microscopes. For instance, this past weekend our kindergarten through second-grade students participated in a forensic science day. So, even as early as that, we are just trying to engage them. No matter what field you pursue in college, no matter what your career option is, you will work with STEM in some way. We want our students to get the wholistic approach and understand what is available to them. A lot of our students haven’t considered a STEM major, but once they’re involved in activities, they realize how much they enjoy it.”
How many students can you guys take on each year?
“On a given year, we have 300 students.”
Is there a fee for students who take part in the program?
“We work very hard through grants and donations from the community to ensure that our parents and students don’t have to have the added stress of paying for our services.”
What are some services that are provided to prepare students for college?
“ACT is a big deal for us here are SR1. We start our students as early as middle school with ACT prep. We have a proven method that we are using. It is 14 steps that the students participate in. We teach them a strategy. A lot of our students don’t think you can study for a standardized exam. But you can, and you can be successful through that. So, we actually walk them through strategies per section that they need. We do a pre and posttest. We do those to ensure we can tailor services to particular students. One of our students who has been with us since third grade is a seventh-grader now. She has a 26 on the ACT.”
In what ways does SR1 build social skills and healthy habits with students?
“Academics is not always what stops students from being successful. We work hand-in-hand with colleges and what we have determined from speaking with professors is that students are lacking social skills, such as communication, self esteem and confidence. So, we work with them to build interviewing skills. We work with students beginning in elementary through to high school to improve those skills. We also understand issues with peer pressure and encourage our students not to be a follower, but to be a leader. We also do a lot with time management, especially with our high-schoolers. We try to teach them to have a well-balanced life.”
If a community member or organization wanted to reach out to donate, what would be the best way?
“They can contact us either by phone at 601-206-4544. Or they can reach us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. We would be more than willing to meet and see how they could help.”