By Chris Kieffer
TUPELO – Two rival community colleges signed an agreement on Thursday to work together to help high school students in the region.
The presidents of Northeast Mississippi Community College and Itawamba Community College signed a Memorandum of Understanding to collaborate in providing classes that would help students in Lee, Pontotoc and Union counties prepare for future careers.
The classes will be offered through the Wellspring Center, which is funded by a $50 million endowment from Toyota to enhance education in the three counties that worked together to attract it to the region.
“It will allow students to explore careers and get knowledge they otherwise might not have had,” said Itawamba Community College President Mike Eaton.
The agreement will allow high school students to take dual-credit courses taught by the community college that is not in their territory. Those credits also would be transferable. Pontotoc and Lee counties are in ICC’s territory, and Union is in Northeast’s.
“We will be capitalizing on the strengths of both institutions so every student in the region is getting the maximum benefit of the two community colleges,” said Northeast President Johnny Allen, adding he hopes the agreement opens the door for future collaboration.
Although it does not yet have a physical location, the Wellspring Center began offering classes this spring with a Web app entrepreneurship course taught at the Toyota facility by Mississippi State University. It will have three classes this fall – an aviation course taught by Hinds Community College, a survey of health care careers taught by Northeast and an industrial robotics class taught by ICC.
Registration recently began for the robotics course, which still has spots available.
“It is a tremendous opportunity, and it meets a tremendous need,” said CREATE Senior Advisor Charles Garrett, who oversees the Wellspring Center.
The agreement also establishes a committee of two representatives from each college and Garrett to develop courses in the future.
“This agreement will be a significant asset in our educational efforts for the students in these three counties,” said Sean Suggs, vice president of administration for Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi.