OUR OPINION: Wellspring center plan set for students' lives

By NEMS Daily Journal

The economic and intellectual reach of Toyota’s investment in Northeast Mississippi became more apparent this week with a series of meetings about the design for the Wellspring Center for Professional Futures, an advanced education center for high school students near the Toyota plant at Blue Springs.
The third and final public information session in the architectural planning process is set for 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Magnolia Civic Center in New Albany, an important opportunity to find out more about the venture called Wellspring Center for Professional Futures. Two previous meetings were held in Pontotoc and Tupelo, making a circuit of the PUL Alliance counties – Pontotoc, Union and Lee.
A professionally led search for funding continues as design work progresses, but money is available for the academic content of the building when it’s completed. Toyota, when it announced it would build an assembly plant at Blue Springs, pledged $50 million for education, payable in 10, $5 million increments.
Those funds, under the management of the CREATE Foundation in Tupelo, will become the endowment for the CPF.
The idea for the center is that high school students from across the three counties can attend for special classes better preparing them for the high-level jobs performance expected in plants like Toyota and/or its suppliers. However, it is not envisioned to become a training center exclusively for Toyota.
The idea for CPF is derived from a similar center in Texas, but other states also offer advanced education for high school students. In Virginia, for example, high school students can take college-level engineering courses in designated schools.
The endowment would fully fund the school, it is hoped, making tax support unnecessary.
Courses at the school would be geared toward specific professional skills, with students taking one or two of their classes per semester on that campus, if they choose that route.
The site, like education-intensive institutes and centers on the campuses of plants like Nissan in Canton, and at other plants in Alabama and South Carolina, is designed to be a visible and practical link to the jobs centers driving its existence.
A 44-acre site has been purchased across U.S. 78/Interstate 22 southeast of the Toyota plant.
Construction will begin when funding is secured.
Education is changing and reforming itself in response to workplace ideas. Companies like Toyota know what makes their production successful: educated employees.
The $50 million gift was generous – and purposeful, with high expectations surrounding it on all sides.