MSU awards Toyota-Haley Barbour Scholarships for fifth year

Contact: Sasha Steinberg

STARKVILLE, Miss.—Through the generosity of Toyota Manufacturing Mississippi and former Mississippi Governor Haley Barbour, Mississippi State University is recognizing six new freshmen with prestigious Toyota-Haley Barbour Scholarships for the fifth consecutive year.

Each student is receiving more than $32,000 over four years—or more than $8,000 per year—to cover the cost of university tuition.

The competitive scholarship program bearing the Yazoo City native’s name enables recipients to give back to area communities that serve and are served by the Blue Springs-based automobile manufacturing facility. While serving as the state’s chief executive from 2004-12, Barbour helped lead efforts to attract Toyota Manufacturing to Mississippi.

To qualify, applicants must be graduating high school seniors from Northeast Mississippi, including DeSoto County, with a minimum 3.0 GPA (based on a 4.0 grading system). They also must have expressed plans to pursue degrees in mathematics, physics, computer science, or chemical, electrical, industrial or mechanical engineering.

This year, 50 initial student qualifiers were identified. Of those, 21 submitted an essay on how they would use a university education to give back to their communities. Twelve students were selected for on-campus interviews.

Michael Chrestman (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

Dakota Hester (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

Theodore Lander (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

Brandon Lawrence (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

Parth Patel (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

Destiny Welch (Photo by Logan Kirkland)

The six new MSU Toyota-Haley Barbour Scholars include (by hometown):

CALHOUN CITY—Destiny B. Welch, a chemical engineering major. While attending Calhoun City High School, Welch was recognized for obtaining a 4.0 GPA all four years and also was named to the CCHS Who’s Who list and Principal Honor Roll. Along with participating in band, she served as class reporter and class secretary and was elected to the Homecoming Court in her freshman and senior years. Welch also volunteered at nursing homes, a breast cancer walk, community clean-up, and school supply drive.

CORINTH—Parth D. Patel, a mechanical engineering major. He was an active member of the Corinth High School Band and participant in multiple honor bands. Patel also served as CEO of the Corinth School District robotics team, which has advanced to the BEST Robotics regional competition three times.

OLIVE BRANCH—Michael A. Chrestman, a mechanical engineering major. Along with being a member of Center Hill High School’s soccer team, Chrestman was captain of the football team and named “Most Athletic” in his graduating class. In his spare time, Chrestman volunteered at the Olive Branch Food Pantry and the Mid-South Toys for Tots.

Also from Olive Branch is Brandon A. Lawrence, a mechanical engineering major. At DeSoto Central High School, he was a member of the Pride of DeSoto Central Marching Band, Technology Student Association, and was Student of the Year for the DeSoto County Career Technology Center West engineering and robotics team. His community service included delivering hot meals to the homeless, volunteering for the “Step UP for Down Syndrome” disability awareness event, and working with classmates to design a 3D prosthetic hand for a child in need.

SOUTHAVEN—Theodore E. Lander, a computer science major. At DeSoto Central High School, he was a member of DeSoto Central’s National Honor Society and Mu Alpha Theta national mathematics honor society. A co-section leader for low reeds and squad leader in band, he was recognized for Top 50 in grade classification, among other honors. Lander is an Eagle Scout with the Boy Scouts of America, has volunteered with the DeSoto County-based nonprofit Hunger2Hope and assisted with the Catholic Service Initiative.

TISHOMINGO—Dakota Hester, a computer science major. While at Tishomingo County High School, he was elected by the class to serve as secretary of the school government. Recognized by school officials for Outstanding Academic Achievement, he was a founding and senior member of the Mu Alpha Theta national mathematics honor society, as well as president of the National BETA club, senior member of the Student Council Organization and member of Future Business Leaders of America. He received first place in the SkillsUSA district competition for two consecutive years and logged more than 40 hours of community service.

For more information about these and other scholarship opportunities, contact MSU’s Office of Admissions and Scholarships at 662-325-2224 or visit

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