Perennial Strategy Group CEO will keynote the graduation ceremony on Saturday
Piney Woods, Miss., May 26, 2017 – The Piney Woods School (PWS), once an abandoned sheep shed turned schoolhouse, and now a sprawling 2,000-acre campus, will host commencement activities on May 27. Festivities will take place in the school’s Rock Garden Amphitheater beginning with a baccalaureate service at 8:30 a.m., followed by the commencement ceremony at 10 a.m. Leading public affairs expert and civil rights advocate, Lamell McMorris, will deliver the keynote address.
The largest historically African-American boarding school in the nation, PWS was founded in 1909 by Dr. Laurence Jones to provide education to children of freed slaves. Situated nearly 20 miles south of Jackson in rural Mississippi, Jones was successful in keeping the school open despite adverse conditions in the segregated South.
According to Jones’ autobiography, “The Little Professor of Piney Woods,” he explained to his students on the first day of school in 1910, “You have come here to seek freedom, not from the kind of slavery your parents endured, but from a slavery of ignorance of mind and awkwardness of body. You have come to educate your head, your hands, and your heart.”
Today, PWS is a 21st century living and learning environment where students are expected to excel academically, and become civically engaged and socially responsible. Over 75 percent of the students hail from lower income areas where failing public school systems and negative peer pressure often inhibit them from accomplishing life goals; however, after undertaking PWS’ rigorous educational, spiritual, and vocational curriculums, 99 percent of graduating seniors are admitted to colleges and universities.
“Considering the success of Piney Woods and the unbelievable feats the school has endured over the past 100 plus years, we are presented with an incredible model of success in this institution that is well worth supporting,” states McMorris.
Introduced by a mutual associate, McMorris and Piney Woods School President Will Crossley related over commonalities such as their upbringing in the South Side of Chicago and successful careers in Washington; however, it’s their passion and advocacy for youth that has forged their camaraderie. “We're excited to have Mr. McMorris share his story, work, and wisdom with our graduating class. His extraordinary success in business and society is in keeping with both the entrepreneurial spirit of Piney Woods and our commitment to advance a community of learners far beyond our humble, rural setting,” explains Crossley. “One hundred and seven years after our founding, with a culture of inclusivity and opportunity, we are proud to add Mr. McMorris to a long line of influential friends whose support has powered our ability to establish a unique learning environment where our students grow academically, developmentally, and spiritually.”
The success of PWS is largely dependent on, as Jones might describe, the “head, hands, and heart” of its supporters. The self-sufficient campus includes a 500-acre instructional farm, five lakes, managed timberland, gardens, and several buildings that each tell a story of the struggle to give young people the opportunity to live extraordinary lives. Crossley has noted that while financial donations to the school are deeply appreciated, there are many ways people can assist today’s students on their journey. The school welcomes in-kind donations in support of several initiatives including their evolving STEM curriculum, transportation needs, and farming programs. Piney Woods School has an array of needs as an institution, and they welcome volunteers to explore the possibility of joining them. For more information on PWS and to discover ways to give, visit www.pineywoods.org.
ABOUT PINEY WOODS SCHOOL
Founded in 1909 by Laurence Clifton Jones, the Piney Woods School is a unique boarding high school with national and international reach. It is a school rich in history and cultural activities, while at the same time keeping abreast of the latest program trends that can improve achievement for its historically African-American student body. The Piney Woods School recognizes that throughout the United States there are students, especially students of color, who have the capability to make their lives extraordinary through excellence in education and the development of moral and ethical attitudes but do not have the opportunity to do so for financial or other reasons. Piney Woods School’s mission is to provide excellence in education within a Christian community through creation of an exceptional academic model which supports the tenet that all students can learn, develop a strong work ethic, and lead extraordinary lives through academic achievement and responsible citizenship.
ABOUT LAMELL MCMORRIS
Lamell McMorris is the founder and CEO of the Washington, DC based companies, Perennial Strategy Group and Perennial Sports. In his work, Mr. McMorris offers strategic insight and external affairs services to some of the nation's leading decision-makers in the private, public, and nonprofit sectors. In 2016, Mr. McMorris founded Greenlining Realty USA, a premier comprehensive urban property redevelopment firm with the mission to reverse the historic discriminatory practice of “redlining.” As a lifelong advocate of civil, economic, and social rights, Mr. McMorris serves as a member on numerous nonprofit and college boards, and volunteers his time with several youth-focused and mentoring organizations. He is frequently recognized for his entrepreneurial leadership and pragmatic, high-impact approach to effective advocacy, and he is often invited to speak at a wide range of conferences and events. Mr. McMorris holds a Bachelor of Arts in Religion and Society from Morehouse College and a Master of Divinity in Social Ethics and Public Policy from Princeton Theological Seminary, and an honorary doctorate from Saint Augustine’s University.