Local students take over campus for Sophomore Day


Thousands of local High School Sophomores descended upon Missouri Southern’s campus for “Sophomore Day” on Tuesday, April 19. Students from nine different schools were given an inside peek into the academic programs, campus housing, and activities available at the college. Faculty and staff held presentations and had hands-on activities and games that offered an overview of the college lifestyle. The event was created in partnership with local high schools in order to coincide with the state-wide administration of the ACT for all high school juniors in Missouri public schools. Students were broken up into small groups, depending on their interests, to tour areas of the campus which were separated into 11 different zones. Participating school districts included Joplin, Webb City, Carl Junction, Carthage, Seneca, Neosho, Jasper, Monett, and Diamond. 

Nearly 2,400 high school sophomores from around the four-state region converged on Missouri Southern State Universitie’s campus for Sophomore Day yesterday. The event, which began last year, gives students from around the area the opportunity to be exposed to a college environment.

The event began with an opening ceremony at 9:15 a.m. in the Leggett & Platt Athletic Center. Students packed the stands, creating a festive atmosphere while Missouri Southern cheerleaders, and mascot, Roary the Lion, excited the crowd. DJ Howie Nunnelly and Cassie Mathes, director of University Relations & Marketing, emceed the festivities and presided over games and contests. 

“It’s a good chance for the students to have a fun time, see the campus, and figure out what they want to do with their lives,” said Nunnelly. “This gives them a broader perspective and hopefully more options to choose from.”

As part of the entertainment, Jake Bay of Webb City High School Participated in a blind taste test on stage where the competitors had to drink a small sample cup of a mystery liquid. 

“It was pretty disgusting; it tasted like a mixture of pickle juice and enchilada sauce,” he said. 

According to Mathis, Sophomore Day is a partnership with local high schools and was created to coincide with the statewide administration of the ACT for all high school juniors in Missouri public schools. 

With high school dropout rates rising, Mathis and her team created a full day of educational opportunities to get the students interested in college and for them to see what their lives could look like if they decide to continue their education.  

“They’re going to explore a variety of academic programs on campus while they’re here,” she said. “It gives them a chance to be exposed to college for the first time, and if they haven’t started to think about where they’ll go, it’s our first chance to get in front of them and say ‘this could be your future.’” 

The event was also a reunion of sorts for some students. Dakota Bronson from Webb City High School got the chance to meet up with several of his former classmates from Neosho High.   

“It’s been cool getting to see my old friends and have fun with them again; I also want to find out what Missouri Southern is all about,” he said. 

Following the opening ceremony, students were broken up into small groups, depending on their interests, to tour areas of the campus which were separated into 11 different zones. During those visits, students learned about academic offerings at Missouri Southern as well as various aspects of campus life. Presentations by faculty and staff members and hands-on activities gave students an authentic taste of college life. 

 “The campus here is great, and they have an excellent selection of classes,” said Kyler Camerer of Carl Junction. “I’m starting to think about colleges, and I have some different options so getting to learn more about Southern definitely helps.” 

Missouri Southern Senior Biology major Saif Farag was one of several tour guides who escorted students around campus.

“I never got to experience anything like this when I was in high school so the kids here today have a fantastic opportunity,” he said. “Missouri Southern has given me so much as a student so I try to give back and help out with things like this as much as I possibly can, I love it.”

Melissa Winston, Director of Community Engagement for Joplin Schools, thinks events like Sophomore Day help kids realize that college is possible for them, and there are ways to make that happen for anybody who wants to go.

 According to Winston, the event provides a greater scope of what is available to the 632 sophomores from Joplin High that attended the event, many of whom had never stepped foot on a college campus before yesterday.

“College is certainly about learning but it’s also a fun environment where they can do a lot of cool things,” she said. A big part of it is exposing the kids to things they’ve never thought of before or careers they never knew existed. We want our community to support our students in the belief that anything is possible, and they can be whatever they want to be. We’re a community that stands behind our kids; we want them to know there supported; dream big and go for it. “

Participating school districts for Sophomore Day included Joplin, Webb City, Carl Junction, Carthage, Seneca, Neosho, Jasper, Monett, and Diamond. 

“It’s good for us to come together with other kids our age from around the area and see what college will be like,” said Kyle Hopper from Joplin High School.