Jim Hill valedictorian achieves goal of becoming school’s ‘Million-Dollar Baby’ for 2021

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Xavian Branch

Adding to his school’s staggering $13.5 million in scholarship offers was Jim Hill graduating senior, Xavian Branch. Branch, the school’s valedictorian, amassed about 10% of that amount with offers totaling $1.5 million in academic scholarships. He applied and received scholarship offers from more than 20 different colleges and universities. The list of offers came from schools like Carnegie Mellon University, the University of Mississippi, West Point, and Vanderbilt. He also applied and was accepted to almost every state school in Mississippi.

Branch has been enrolled in the International Baccalaureate program since elementary school and remained in the advanced academic curriculum through the Diploma Program in his senior year at Jim Hill. Branch was also named a STAR Student for the 2020-2021 school year by the Mississippi Economic Council. STAR Students are selected on the basis of academic excellence determined by their ACT scores and academic averages.

Besides excelling academically, Branch rounds out his interests through extracurriculars that include participation in sports, music, and the arts. He is a representative on the Superintendent’s Student Advisory Committee, a member of the Jim Hill drama club, a contributor to the school’s newspaper, a member of Jim Hill’s Band of Distinction marching band, and was named a Scholar-Athlete.

Branch credits his mother, Zandra Branch, and Jim Hill academic advisor Frank Branch with steering his pursuit of excellence in high school to achieve his postsecondary goals. His mother describes Xavian as more than just an exceptional student academically but one who seeks opportunities to assist others.

“Whatever major he decides on, or whatever field he chooses, he’s going to help someone,” said his mother. “Xavian always assisted. Whether it was his classmates, teachers, or tutoring, he’s always been an outstanding young man.”

Retired Major Frank Branch encountered Xavian through his role as an academic advisor and graduation consultant at Jim Hill. In August, the school provides a college planning series that includes an orientation and a goal-setting workshop.

“Each year, we’re known to produce at least one student that would be a million-dollar baby,” said Major Branch. “When Xavian sent his paperwork to me, he said ‘I am going to be the million-dollar baby this year.’ He ended up getting more than $1 million.”

With nearly two dozen offers to choose from, Xavian ultimately accepted a full-ride presidential scholarship to attend Mississippi College located in nearby Clinton, Mississippi.