PEARL ― The Mississippi Construction Education Foundation is recognizing three career and technical education standouts as its students of the month for March.

Selected from MCEF’s three districts are Joshua Grayson, a construction student at the Jackson County Technology Center; Newt Hopper, a construction/carpentry student at Tippah Career and Technology Center; and Howard Needham, a welding student at the Wayne County Career Technical Center.

Winners are chosen based on grades, attendance, discipline in class, outstanding achievements, leadership abilities, and post-graduation plans. All will compete for student of the year honors at the foundation’s annual awards program in May.

"We congratulate our student of the month winners for being such excellent representatives of high school career tech programs in Mississippi," said Mike Barkett, MCEF president. "We're proud of each of them for helping ensure our state has a highly skilled workforce to support the state's growing construction and manufacturing industries."

Eager to learn and to share his knowledge with others, Grayson enjoys discovering how things work. His endless curiosity, combined with a willingness to take risks, make him one of his center’s top students.

Grayson is a member of his school’s football team, Student Council, National Honor Society and Spanish Club. He also serves as a volunteer with his church and as a B.U.D.S. mentor at Vancleave Upper Elementary School.

Following his graduation this Spring, Grayson plans to study building construction science at Mississippi State University.

Combining leadership with determination, Hopper is driven to be the best in the classroom and the shop. His pursuit of perfection has earned him a 3.6 grade point average, top honors in regional craft competitions, and recognition as one of his center’s most outstanding students.

At Walnut High School, Hopper participates in SkillsUSA, FFA, DECA, football, baseball, basketball and archery. He also serves as WHS senior class vice-president, WHS FFA President, North Tippah DECA secretary, and baseball team captain.

Hopper is equally active in his community, volunteering with FFA, Lads to Leaders church activities, and food drives for the Good Samaritan Center. Upon graduation, he plans to pursue a degree in electrical technology while operating his own cabinet-making business.

Demonstrating excellence in all that he puts his mind to, Needham is recognized by instructors as an engaging student who contributes to his center’s lively learning environment. Whether it is designing a project, collaborating with others, or finding new ways to solve a problem, he is eager to broaden his experience.

Needham is a member of his school’s SkillsUSA fabrication team and participates in football and track. He also volunteers as a youth football and baseball coach.

Upon graduation, he plans to study welding at an area community college.

MCEF is a non-profit educational foundation that provides NCCER craft training and credentialing in more than 100 career and technical programs across the state. The foundation’s mission is to train individuals for the construction and manufacturing industries in Mississippi.

MCEF also offers workforce training and credentialing in construction, industrial maintenance and manufacturing trades. Learn more about MCEF at