Hannah Duke (Student)

Hannah Duke, pictured at MSU's Old Main Academic Center with the Chapel of Memories carillon tower in the distance

If you want to make a difference, you have to be the difference first. Hannah Duke calls this her “make my mark mentality,” and it inspires her to be a positive role model for others, especially young students.

“Content and making good grades on tests is important, but what I want students to remember most is who took the time to care about them,” said Duke, a junior elementary education major concentrating in middle school. “I want to teach students life skills like problem solving and how to work with teachers and other leaders. Also, building a positive image of literacy in students’ minds is another way I can help them be successful.”

This determination to help today’s youth navigate education is something Duke has developed throughout her undergraduate experience at MSU.

“I fell in love with the education program here at Mississippi State during my first semester on campus,” said the Birmingham, Alabama, native. “Participating in the Patterson Scholars program was one of the freshman-year experiences that solidified my decision to pursue education academically and professionally, and I am grateful. I can’t see myself doing anything else.”

Duke is one of MSU’s eight inaugural James Patterson Teacher Education Scholars, a prestigious group now comprised of 16 students who conduct service projects throughout the academic year. The scholars each are receiving academic awards made possible by a generous gift from New York Times best-selling author James Patterson and his wife Susan Solie Patterson.

“For Read Across America Day, we partnered this year with students in MSU’s Mississippi Excellence in Teaching Program to put on an event for students at Church Hill Elementary School in West Point. We set up stations, and kids could walk around and learn something different at each one,” Duke explained. “One of the stations focused on bodies of water, and we put up a picture of Niagara Falls. Some of the kids went ‘Whoa!’ because they had never seen it, much less been there before. It’s the little things like their reaction to something that gives you a great reminder of how beautiful learning is.”

Another experience that has influenced Duke’s passion for education is her involvement as mentoring director with the Brickfire Project. Currently serving approximately 50 kids in kindergarten through seventh grade, the organization provides outreach programs designed to promote the value of education and personal development to Starkville youth and families.

Among her duties, Duke coordinates and supervises college and high school-aged mentors who help students with their homework after school. Once homework is finished, the students can hang out and play games with their mentors.

“Kids deserve to have someone telling them they are beautiful, amazing and talented. I want to invest in each of them as a person and a student, so they can see college as an opportunity,” Duke said.