By Michaela Gibson Morris
TUPELO – High school students in Lee, Union and Pontotoc counties will get the chance to dig into health care careers next year in a pilot program organized through the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund.
In partnership with Northeast Mississippi Community College and North Mississippi Medical Center, 20 juniors and seniors will be able to enroll in a health care career survey course. The dual enrollment course will combine online classes and job shadowing days at the hospital.
“This will be a great opportunity for students interested in health care,” said Northeast health sciences division head Patti Cooper at a Monday morning press conference announcing the program at the CREATE Foundation.
The classes will cover different health care fields, the education requirements, workplace demands and expected salaries, said Toyota Mississippi vice president for administration Sean Suggs, who serves on the fund’s advisory committee. The students will also learn about the U.S. health care system and the forces that shape it.
“It’s our job to guide and inspire our students,” said Suggs, noting that health care is one of the most important sectors of the economy.
The Toyota Wellspring Education Fund is a $50 million endowment by the automaker to support education in the three counties that worked together to attract it to the region. CREATE oversees the fund, which is administered by an advisory committee.
The job shadowing component builds on a number of programs NMMC has offered for students over the years.
“It opens the door for a lot of students who haven’t been involved,” said Rosalyn Campbell, NMMC career counseling coordinator.
The educators want to bridge the gap between a career that sounds interesting to students and the reality of the educational demands and the career demands.
“We’ve seen a need for this course for years,” said Camille Shoffner, the Northeast instructor who will teach the course. “The more informed students are on the front end, the more quickly they go through the educational process.”
Students will register for the class this spring and begin classes in August. There will be a $24 fee to students to cover registration and an ID and transportation costs to NMMC-Tupelo for the five job shadowing days. The endowment would cover any additional costs, which are still being finalized.
Each of the 14 high schools in the three counties will have a guaranteed slot in the program. The remaining slots will be available through a lottery. Depending on demand and program capacity, the program may be able to accommodate additional students, as the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund has done with the current web application class it is offering in conjunction with Mississippi State University.
It’s taken seven organizations working together over six months to put together the health career course. CREATE Senior Consultant Charles Garrett praised the enthusiasm of Northeast and NMMC is making the project a success. The hospital will handle the planning and execution of the five job shadowing days each semester. Northeast is providing the planning, instruction and online platform for the classes.
Northeast president Johnny Allen said he sees great promise in the pilot project to help students find the right educational path.
“I believe this is just the tip of the iceberg,” he said.