PEARL ― Twenty of the state’s top-performing career and technical education students are finalists for student of the year honors from the Mississippi Construction Education Foundation.

Winners, to be named in May, will be selected from MCEF’s northern, central and southern districts and will receive $500 cash prizes.

"Our annual awards program is an opportunity to recognize Mississippi's best and brightest students and to honor the hard work and dedication they've demonstrated in preparing for their futures," said Mike Barkett, MCEF president. "These outstanding students are helping ensure that Mississippi has a highly skilled workforce to support the state's growing construction and manufacturing industries."

MCEF's student of the month program honors students who are excelling in high school career tech programs throughout Mississippi. Instructor nominations are based on grades, attendance, class discipline, outstanding achievements, leadership abilities and post-graduation plans.

Student of the year finalists from the northern region are Michael Huling, Itawamba Career and Technical Center; Hunter Vance, Webster County Career and Technical Center; Newt Hopper, Tippah Career and Technology Center; Wesley Gaskin, West Point Career and Technology Center; Elijah Hodum, Alcorn Career and Technology Center; and Sam Kirkland, South Panola Career and Technical Center.

Central region finalists are Jacob Hardy and Kaden McDonald, Philadelphia Neshoba County Career Technical Center; Lakendria Perkins, Thomas C. Randle Career and Technical Center in Belzoni; Howard Needham, Wayne County Career Technical Center; Shane West, Pearl/Rankin Career and Technical Center; William Thigpen, Hinds Community College in Vicksburg; and Shakindra Hunt, Winston-Louisville Career and Technology Center.

Southern region finalists are Julianna Simmons, South Pike Career and Technical Center; Madelyn Rich, George County High School career and technical education program; Joshua Grayson, Jackson County Technology Center; Haley Rouse, Harrison County Career and Technical Center; Tristan Necaise, Hancock County Career Technical Center; Jakendal Ruffin, Laurel Career and Technical Center; and Shane Kirk, Jones County Career-Technical Center.

The mission of the non-profit MCEF is to promote careers, recruit capable individuals and train a workforce for the construction industry in the state of Mississippi. MCEF also offers workforce training and credentialing in construction, industrial maintenance and manufacturing trades.

Learn more about MCEF at