Danielle Reeder is a student-teacher at Anniston Elementary in Gulfport. Soon, she hopes to run her very own classroom.
"I love being in front of these kids and teaching them something that is new and seeing the light go on in their head "Oh, I get it"! At the same time I'm also learning."
Reeder will receive her education degree in May. But her hopes of landing a job were dashed after hearing news that the budget crisis forced school districts to slash or freeze hundreds of teaching positions.
"My hopes were I'll get a job when I graduate. When I started 3 years ago, there was a teacher shortage. That's all you heard, good teachers, we need good teachers. Here I am graduating, working so hard to get finished and graduate and I may not have a job. That really scares me."
It's also a scary thought for many Southern Miss students who hope to enter the teaching field someday.
Keely Eastridge said, "I'm becoming a teacher because that's what I want to do and I'll do what I have to do. If it requires having to move to another state that is a possibility".
Another student sounded more upbeat.
"Education has always been under funded everywhere. It's nothing new. Good teachers, people that want to teach, are going to find a way to be in a classroom," Shawn Chesser said. "I may have to be flexible on where I have to go or how far I have to drive to get a job, but I'm very confident I will be able to find a position somewhere."
Danielle Reeder isn't so optimistic about her future. She wants to teach in Mississippi. So she's urging state lawmakers to put their priorities in place and put children first.
"There are 40 of us from USM that are graduating and all of us will be looking for jobs. I hope there's a place for all of us. I hope the kids get the education they need and the funding is behind us and them."
Next weekend is a critical time for lawmakers. They face a May 1st deadline to agree on all parts of the $3.7 billion state budget, and that includes education.