2007 Croft Scholars

OXFORD, Miss. – Thirteen top students from across the country have been chosen as 2007 Croft Scholars by the Croft Institute for International Studies at the University of Mississippi.

The scholars each receive $32,000 for four years of undergraduate study. The Croft Institute was created in 1997 through a $60 million gift by the Joseph E. Bancroft Charitable and Educational Fund and ensures that students are prepared for leadership in business, public service, education and other fields with a deeper knowledge of an increasingly interdependent world.

"This year’s crop is an amazingly bright group of students," said Director Kees Gispen. "Every year I marvel at the depth of talent and promise of Croft’s entering cohort. This was another banner year – students with grades and test scores that rival those at the top universities in the nation. Some of these young Croft scholars already are accomplished speakers of Spanish or French even before they enter the program. Others have tested out of required classes, such as calculus and English, and can go straight into second-year courses at Croft, such as economics and political science."

Attesting to their abilities, the Croft Scholars have ACT scores ranging from 29 to 35.

They are James Michael Buchanan of Allen, Texas, Jesuit College Preparatory School; Katherine Virginia Burke of Charleston, Mo., Charleston High School; Leigh Hanlon Cummins of Clinton, Clinton High School; Erin Rebeccah Mauffray of Gulfport, Gulfport High School; Ryan James Parsons of Hattiesburg, Oak Grove High School; Courtney Kay Pinac of Metairie, La., Mount Carmel Academy; Luke Daniel Schwalm of Madison, Madison Central High School; Erin Elizabeth Singleton of Myrtle Beach, S.C., Myrtle Beach High School; Kyle A. Sjostrom, Bay St. Louis, Mississippi School for Mathematics and Science (Columbus); Jessica Phillips Tyson of Columbia, S.C., A.C. Flora High School; Gabriel Amadeus Weiss of Ocean Springs, Ocean Springs High School; Marie Elizabeth Wicks of Ocean Springs, Ocean Springs High School; and John Stephens Worley III of Jackson, Jackson Academy.

Buchanan received his school’s James M. Collins Award for Citizenship. A member of the National Honor Society, Student Council and French National Honor Society, he is an Eagle Scout and served as a Jesuit Ambassador. He plays the saxophone and was woodwind captain and section leader for his school’s Ranger Band and Jesuit Jazz Ensemble.

Burke served as president of both her senior class and the National Honor Society. She was a cheerleader and member of the Student Council, Future Business Leaders of America and Future Teachers of America. A delegate to Missouri Girls State, she served there as mayor and senator. A leader in her church’s youth group, she was a delegate to the city’s Health and Model Guidance Committee, and she was the Top Female Graduate of the DARE Program.

Cummins, who ranked fifth in a class of 307, was a member of her school’s yearbook staff and a participant in theater productions. She received the Most Outstanding Proposal Award at Mississippi’s 2006 Model United Nations conference. She attended Mississippi’s Governor’s School and was chosen as Mississippi’s female delegate to HOBY World Leadership Congress. Her community service included chairing 14 community service projects for the Crown Club, going on a mission trip to Mexico and participating in the Cancer Society’s Relay for Life. She won the Millsaps Book Award, which recognizes community service and excellence in writing.

Mauffray, who ranked ninth in a class of 333, participated in her high school’s Art, Science and Spanish clubs. A member of the National Honor Society, she was named to Who’s Who Among American High School Students and received Mississippi’s Jr. Miss Scholastic Award. Active in her church’s youth ministry, she served as a delegate to the Methodist Mississippi Youth Annual Conference and as vice president of the Conference Council on Youth Ministries. She volunteered in cleanup following Hurricane Katrina and in raising money for the March of Dimes.

Parsons, who ranked second in a class of 286, completed the Distinguished Scholar Program at Oak Grove High School, which requires extensive research and work outside of the classroom. He was a National Merit Semifinalist, candidate for the Presidential Scholars Program and member of the Forensics Team. He served on the Student Council and was a member of the National Honor Society.

Pinac served on the Student Council throughout high school and was class president her junior and senior years. She was a member of the National Honor Society, Technology Honor Society, Mu Alpha Theta and Student Ambassador Team. A talented pianist, she served as a children’s activity leader at church camps.

Schwalm was news reporter and layout editor for his school’s newspaper. He was a member of the Chess Club, Government Club and Youth Legislature. He participated in a joint graduate program with the University of Southern Mississippi, in which students identified, tagged and estimated the number of endangered Henslow’s sparrows in Mississippi. A National Merit Semifinalist, he was selected Most Intellectual by his senior classmates.

Singleton, who ranked No. 16 in a class of 294, was a member of her high school’s Key Club Service Organization, Beta Club and National Honor Society. A member of the yearbook staff, she was a regional science fair winner and named to Who’s Who Among American High School Students. A soccer player, she was nominated for Wendy’s High School Heisman Award in soccer. She volunteered for a number of community projects, including the March of Dimes.

Sjostrom’s acceptance to MSMS had him ranked among the top 5 percent of Mississippi students. He was co-president of the school’s chapter of the Mississippi Model Security Counsel. He participated in Young Democrats, attended the USM Inspire Research Conference and has extensively studied the French language. Outside the classroom, he enjoyed playing tennis and soccer, and working in the school’s organic vegetable garden. As a volunteer, he spent time in the Katrina Beach Cleanup effort.

Tyson, who ranked No. 20 in a class of 231, participated in the International Baccalaureate Program, completing exams in French, physics, visual arts, history, English and math. In high school, she served in student government and was a member of the Key Club, French Club, FBLA and Young Life. She received the Robert Raushernberg Merit Award in ceramic sculpture at the South Carolin State Fair. She spent a summer internship under Martha Scott Poindexter, Chief of Staff of the U.S. Senate Agriculture Committee. As a volunteer, she tutored underprivileged children and went on church mission trips for four years.

Weiss, whose family moved to Ocean Springs from Iowa his senior year to assist in Hurricane Katrina relief, became involved in Model United Nations, Help to Others Service Club, Mu Alpha Theta, Junior Civitan Club, National Honor Society, Spanish Club and the school’s newspaper. He also played football and soccer. He completed Army Basic Combat Training earning the title of Highest Honor Graduate and receiving the Sapper Award. He also was named Best Delegate to the Model United Nations Club.

Wicks, who graduated first in her class, was active in the local Junior Civitan Club and served as the Magnolia District Governor for Jr. Civitan International. One of two Mississippi Delegates to the 44th Annual U.S. Senate Youth Program, she won first place in the Veterans of Foreign Wars District I essay contest and received the Harvard Prize Book Award. She participated in the Science Club, French Club and Gulf Coast Youth Leadership, and she enjoyed ballet and piano competition.

Worley began his involvement at the university early by participating in the 2006 Lott Leadership Institute. He was named a National Merit Semifinalist and elected student body president at his school. A writer for his school’s newspaper, he participated in the Spanish Club, Key Club, Sr. High Student Council and Fellowship of Christian Athletes. He was a member of the Cum Laude Society and received the Varsity Football Team Captain Award. An Eagle Scout, he enjoys playing tennis.

For more information about the Croft Institute for International Studies, visit