Partnership will teach students web app business

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – High school students from three Northeast Mississippi counties soon will learn from university professors how to create, market and sell smart phone applications.
Mississippi State University announced a new partnership with the Toyota Education Endowment during a Tuesday morning press conference held at the CREATE Foundation. The endowment was created by a $50 million gift from Toyota to school districts in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties, the three that joined forces to attract the automaker to the region.
“These students will benefit from a learning opportunity not usually available to high school students anywhere,” said MSU President Mark Keenum, who attended Tuesday’s announcement.
Students from the 14 public high schools in those three counties will now be able to take a dual enrollment web app entrepreneurship class from MSU. The class will start in January and enroll 25 students to be chosen by lottery. Each of the schools will have at least one seat.
The 14-week class will meet online for an hour on Tuesday and Thursday mornings during the 2014 spring semester. Students also will attend class for two hours each Saturday at Toyota’s Blue Springs plant. They will earn three hours of credit from MSU and one high school credit.
“They will be able to create websites and mobile web applications and turn them into a business,” said Rodney Pearson, a professor of business information systems at MSU and one of six MSU instructors who will teach the course. It will include programing, management, marketing and entrepreneurship.
This effort is connected to plans to build the Wellspring Center for Professional Futures, which would offer advanced professional courses to students in the three counties. Funds to build that school are still being sought, and its operations would be funded by the endowment.
CREATE Foundation President Mike Clayborne said they hope to soon announce two additional courses for 2014.
“It is a combination of showing what is possible and being able to do something right now that will benefit these students,” he said.
Four students who have applied to get into the initial class also attended Tuesday’s press conference.
“I think this class will be great to see what the real world is like and understand what we need to prepare ourselves for,” said Lee Bethay, 17, a junior at Saltillo High School.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com