Posted by Wes Brooks on Aug 14, 2017
President Paula Brahan presided over the meeting. Thanks to Gene Owens who gave the invocation and to Mary Cromartie who led us in the Pledge of Allegiance.
Thanks also to Mike Ratliff who served as our greeter today.
Mike Ratliff introduced todays guests.  Wes Brooks has several guests.  Shawn Harris, Leanne Cross, and Staci Cox.  Leanne has already submitted her application. Paula Brahan’s guest is Meghan Burke a prospective member.  We also have Denny Bubrig, a visiting Rotarian from Austin, Texas. He is in the process of transferring his membership to our club.
Today’s cash winner was Mike Ratcliff.  Paula reminded members to bring extra cash to future meetings and participate in the weekly cash give-away.
Paula then inducted our new member Steven Utroska. Steve is a graduate of Old Miss and is an Environmental Engineer at Environmental Management Services, Inc.  He is married and has one son and a daughter on the way.  His wife is a nurse in the operating room at Merit Wesley Medical Center. He wanted to get involved with some type of service organization and since his wife received a scholarship from a Rotary Club for her nursing school and he is friends with Ryan Kelly, it only made sense that he join the Hattiesburg Rotary Club.
Shane Germany then announced that he is looking for volunteers for Meals on Wheels. If you are interested, please contact him and he can send you reminders of your dates and keep track of the volunteers.
Philip Carter then announced that he is working with a group called” Engage Hattiesburg”. This is a working group of community advocates who support and want to build the civic infrastructure of Hattiesburg. By addressing issues like education, civic awareness, and community resources through collaboration, Engage Hattiesburg is making a collective impact in our community.  He is invited Rotarians to join. If you are interested visit their Facebook page at Engage Hattiesburg.  He is also running a marathon in December for St. Jude’s, so if you would like to donate, just let him know and he can send you a link.
Wes Brooks then introduced todays guest speaker Staci Cox.  Staci is the Director of Marketing and Communication at United Way of Southeast Mississippi and the owner of Little Dog Cinema. 
Staci explained the United Way’s education initiative and what United Way is doing to meet those needs of our children.  Right now 71% of children entering kindergarten are not ready.  That is 71% that can’t pick out colors, count to ten or say their ABC’s. Fifty-seven percent of third grade children did not pass the third-grade reading level.  Children are often not learning to read until the third grade and then they are reading to learn. When they can’t read at their grade level, it is going to cause them to fall behind in their classes. A large number of high high-school students drop out, don’t graduate or didn’t graduate on time in 2017.  Eighty students at Hattiesburg High didn’t graduate last school year.
Education is a cornerstone for success in school, work and life. It also benefits the whole community: high school graduates have higher earning potential, get a job, have better access to healthcare insurance, contribute more to their local economies, are more engaged in their communities, and are more likely to raise kids who also graduate on time.
United Way is in the process of joining with the Mississippi Campaign for Reading. The campaign specifically tries to get students in Hattiesburg to read on grade level by time they get to third grade. The areas of focus are, school attendance, summer learning and school readiness.
  • School Attendance-  It's difficult for the teacher and the class to build their skills and progress if students are frequently absent. Children that miss too many days, will often fall behind in class.
  • Summer Learning- Children lose one to two grade levels mostly of mathematics and reading over the summer.  Teachers are having to use the first few weeks of each school year to catch the students up on what they should have remembered from last year.
  • School Readiness- They want to make sure students are ready to start school so they don’t. have to get their supplies, etc. after school begins.
These are things the United Way of Southeast Mississippi believe are important.  United Way adopts a comprehensive approach to education that will span all the way from cradle to career. The path to success begins early. 
If you would like more information, feel free to contact Staci directly by email at or visit
Paula thanked today’s speaker and with no other business or announcements she adjourned the meeting with our motto, “Service Above Self.”