For the first time ever, a group of students from Quitman High School had a conversation with Agriculture Secretary Ann Veneman and others around the nation, while in the comfort of their own school.
Utilizing the school's new distance learning lab, equipped with state-of-the-art broadband Internet technology, Quitman students had a video conference with the secretary and told her how the USDA grant-funded lab has helped them.
Daphne Daugherty, a senior at Quitman, takes an oral communications class from Simmons High School in northwestern Mississippi through distance learning.
"I can take it here. There are about seven others in the class with me," said Daphne Daugherty, "and we wouldn't be able to take it if it wasn' for the distance learning because it wouldn't have been offered here at all."
Senior Tirell Howard takes part in a Spanish class taught at his school and shared with two other districts by distance learning.
"We all see the same thing and share in the same activities so that we can learn Spanish better," said Howard.
Through distance learning labs like the one at Quitman High, more courses can be offered to students. But over time and with the help of the U.S. Department of Agriculture's $1.4 billion loan program to enhance rural telecommunications, the effects will reach far beyond current classroom limitations.
"Students all over Mississippi can take advantage of this," said principal Charlie Parkerson. "Our students can actually take courses offered all over the world as long as the other person has the same equipment. Also, we would like to eventually offer it to teachers to go back and further their education to get further degrees."
For more information on how to apply for USDA telecommunication loans, visit the USDA Web site at www.usda.gov.