EDITORIAL: Opportune season

The season of high school graduations shines a bright light on the successes of thousands in the Class of 2010 across Northeast Mississippi.
Each of the seniors who take the walk and receive their high school diploma will have achieved the first milestone on the road to success, prosperity, and happiness.
Some graduates at our region’s high schools this year will become the first in their families to earn a diploma, and too many who continue in advanced training, community colleges or in universities will not complete the next levels of education attempted.
Too many who started kindergarten with this year’s graduates won’t be seen in the auditoriums, gyms, arenas or at the athletic fields where commencements will happen. Those are numbered among the dropouts who stopped at some point – bored, frustrated, angry, weighted with early, single parenthood, and under-achieving because of too many bad circumstances to list.
The annual meeting Thursday of the Commission on the Future of Northeast Mississippi at BancorpSouth Conference Center in Tupelo, will, as every year, hear reports measuring efforts to lessen the liabilities and increase the intellectual assets of students and the whole region.
The new leaders from Mississippi State University, Mark Keenum, and the University of Mississippi, Dan Jones, will attend and participate in the meeting, a demonstration of mutual interest in the region that’s home to both their main campuses, thousands of their alumni, and much of the work supported by their research, teaching and applied knowledge.
Jones and Keenum early on at a meeting arranged by the commission pledged to make unprecedented academic partnerships and mutual ventures – focusing heavily on the development of the region in which their universities are seated – a priority. Some of that will begin to unfold Thursday even as both leaders face huge financial constraints because of state budget shortfalls and cuts.
CREATE Foundation, which owns Journal, Inc., is the wellspring of the commission, and its energy is interwoven with everything on Thursday’s agenda.
CREATE organized the commission in 1995, and since then tuition guarantee programs have been implemented at all the region’s community colleges, an industrial megasite has been occupied by Toyota, and a major dropout prevention initiative has begun to bear fruit.
The commission, while valuing the assets of history, is focused on the future: assessing the needs and opportunities in Northeast Mississippi, pulling together regional leadership to seek solutions and address opportunities, and back high-impact potential to make big, positive differences in our area.
Planning for tangible regional unity in the northeastern counties began before World War II and resumed afterward. The road has sometimes been narrow and progress slow, but the commission has proven a megastep toward the kind of cooperation and unity that knows no boundaries and seeks everything that can be achieved to mutual benefit.
Looking with tunnel vision seems easier, but it is ultimately self-defeating. Development that enriches with the broadest view is the key.
The commission also has taken honest measures of where we stand compared to the rest of our state, the South and the nation. What those studies have identified hasn’t been fully satisfying, and the sometimes unpleasant truth has spurred new energy.
The general session of the commission meeting is free and open to all – and is enlightening.

NEMS Daily Journal