Wellspring Center seeks unique niche

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – While its leaders continue to seek funds for its construction, the Wellspring Center for Professional Futures will offer its first class in August.
Charles Garrett, the former New Albany superintendent who has taken a leadership position with the center, told an audience at the Community Development Foundation’s First Friday event the first class will teach students how to build iPhone applications.
“My charge is to try to find ways to do things for our 11th- and 12th-graders that we can’t currently do,” Garrett said at BancorpSouth Conference Center.
Mississippi State University professor Rodney Pearson will teach that first class, which will be available to about 15 to 30 students from the eight school districts in Pontotoc, Union and Lee Counties. Because the facility is not yet built, the class will meet online for one hour every Tuesday and Thursday morning and for three hours on Saturday mornings at the Toyota training facility. It also will offer students credit both at their high school and at Mississippi State University.
The Wellspring Center will serve students in the three counties that attracted Toyota to the region. Its operations will be funded by a $50 million endowment from the automaker, but funds for its construction are still being sought.
The center will offer courses on various professions to supplement what students are taking on their home campuses. It will be focused on a curriculum that each of the schools would be unable to offer individually.
“We want it to be a tremendous advantage to be there,” Garrett said.
The model, he said, will be to look at what community colleges and universities are doing for ideas. Classes would also offer college credit, he said.
Possible fields could include advanced manufacturing, health care, aviation, engineering and architecture, computer graphics and animation, legal studies and agricultural science, among other things.
The center will be built on 44 acres of land across Highway 78 from the Toyota facility. Construction will cost about $30 million, but Garrett said if they build it in phases, they can do groundwork and construct the first of its five buildings with about $9 to $10 million. Leaders of the center are hoping to get some funding from a state bond bill this year.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com