OUR OPINION: Toyota endowment opens another path

Toyota’s arrival in Northeast Mississippi seven years ago this month brought with it the promise of a $50 million endowment for education in the public schools of Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties, the members of the PUL Alliance whose partnership helped bring the world-leading car manufacturer and its assembly plant to Blue Springs.

The Toyota Wellspring Education Fund remains a promise in process of fulfillment, but its impact and investment continue opening academic opportunities that otherwise would not be possible.

On Monday, the Wellspring fund, Northeast Mississippi Community College and North Mississippi Medical Center activated a partnership that this fall will allow 20 students ((juniors and seniors) in Lee, Union and Pontotoc counties to enroll in a health career survey course, combining online classes and shadowing professionals at the hospital.

“This will be a great opportunity for students interested in health care,” said Northeast health sciences division head Patti Cooper at a Monday morning press conference announcing the program at the CREATE Foundation.

In addition, the students will learn how the health care system works, the education requirements for different specialties, salary expectations, and workplace demands.

Importantly, the course will teach students how the American health care system works and about the pressures shaping it.

CREATE oversees the Wellspring fund, which is administered by an advisory committee. The requirements for using endowment funds are strenuous and must have practical applications related to enhancing educational attainment in the counties which worked as equal partners to bring Toyota to Mississippi.

The course is focused on the reality of education, work and expectations in the health professions.

As reported on today’s front page, the program could expand if demand develops. The 14 PUL Alliance high schools are each guaranteed a slot, and the others will be available through a lottery.

Seven organizations have worked together for more than six months to shape the program, an indication of the rigor involved.

The Wellspring fund has just begun to spin off its potential for the schools in the PUL Alliance counties.

Expectations are great. Planning and implementation are understandably meticulous and conservative; programs will grow with success. Changes will almost certainly include new technology and methods as they come online.