Mississippi College

Student Jugglers Balance Studies and Community Service at Mississippi College

October 4, 2013

Juggling balls and bowling pins, nearly a dozen Mississippi College students are polishing their skills to entertain Clinton children this fall.

Call it Juggling 101, it’s the community service component of a physical education class for undergraduates on the Clinton campus.

“I never tried juggling before, but this is fun,” says MC sophomore Logan McLeod as she tossed balls during practice in early October at the Jennings Courtyard.

A 19-year-old elementary education major from Hurley, McLeod plans to keep juggling as a way to connect with children when she becomes a classroom teacher. “I really love kids and want to be there for them. I will keep it up.”

In recent days, students in professor Steven Patterson’s class discovered their skills are not nearly sharp enough to join the circus. They are strictly amateurs, but continue to make steady progress. The children, ages 5 to 8, at Northside Baptist Church, are delighted to see them perform each week.

“They hug me,” said MC student Sarah Rachel Murdoch of Montgomery, Alabama. “They don’t want to see me leave.”

Performances at the Clinton church showcasing the MC students typically last up to 30 minutes.

Mississippi College senior Beth Ann McCormick, 22, of Clinton isn’t limiting herself to juggling. She’s also learning to ride a unicycle to entertain the children. In addition, the Clinton High graduate reaches out to the kids by helping with their homework.

“You own them (the children) once you juggle,” Patterson said to encourage his students in early October before they dashed outside for practice.

It’s not all fun and games. The MC students are assigned to read “The Ordinary Acrobat,” the book telling the history of the circus world, and exploring the contributions of jesters to society. The author takes readers on the fascinating adventures of an American soaking up the thrills and spills at a major circus in Paris.

The course focuses on the cultural meaning of the circus from the 1700s to modern times. Juggling dates back thousands of years to ancient Egypt. Artwork on the tomb of an Egyptian price depicts a group of jugglers.

Patterson’s class is among several new courses at Mississippi College this academic year that combine traditional studies with community service, one of the cornerstones of the Christian university.

Juggling has positive benefits for college students year-round – it’s a tremendous stress reliever before final exams roll around.

Mississippi College’s novice jugglers will play it safe and stick with tossing balls and bowling pins. Many years ago, some of the most famous Chinese jugglers would dazzle audiences as they tossed seven swords in the air.

MC senior Laura Ruff, 21, prefers riding the unicycle over juggling balls. Either way, the Canton resident will keep practicing daily to do her best when the Clinton children watch her every move. “I love working with the kids,” she said. “This gives them a nice break from school. I’m getting good at it.”

Photo: Students learning to juggle and ride a unicycle in a Mississippi College class this fall take a picture before returning to practice at the Jennings Courtyard. It is a component of their history course tied to community service.

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