Category Archives: Education

One Door Closes, but Many More Open – For Business!

GOLDEN TRIANGLE – Courtesy of the Dispatch

COLUMBUS

Former employees Debbie Putt and Janis Kertsetter are now the new owners of The Purple Elephant on Wilkins Wise Road in Columbus. The shop had been closed briefly after the prior owner, Marca Glenn, retired.

“We hated to see another store close in Columbus,” Putt said. “We just felt like jumping in and doing it. Everything comes full circle.”

Putt went on to say that the shop will be the same as always, though they are open to carrying new and interesting items for their clientele to buy; also, they have retained the crew that worked under Ms. Glenn. The gift shop is open Monday through Friday from 10 a.m.-5:30 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m.-5 p.m.

Tutti Frutti Frozen Yogurt, next to CJ’s in Columbus, has announced that they are closing their doors after being in business for six years.

STARKVILLE

Construction work has officially begun at Grand Junction condos, 509 University Drive. They are hoping to open Phase I for new homeowners in late August of this year. Tabor Development’s VP of development, Kay Regimbal, says that about one third of the condos have already been purchased.

The units vary in size from 1~3 bedrooms & 750~1,500 square feet, and in price from about $200,000 to $445,000.

MSU’s Colvard Student Union had a couple of changes quite recently:

State Fountain Bakery, which is now across the union, has penlty of goodies on offer just in time for Valentine’s Day. Mediterranean restaurant Olilo is now open in the student union.

Popular downtown yoga studio Firefly on S Lafayette St has shut its doors, and appears to be on the market.

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EMCC Has a New President

LOWNDES COUNTY, Miss. – Courtesy of WCBI

Mississippi native Dr. Scott Alsobrooks recently took over as President at EMCC, and he’s already excited about what he sees: “The people are just, you know, what makes it good. And uh, that’s a marvelous asset to have and we’ll get to work, and find students that are ready the you know [sic] get enrolled, and get into a program. And learn and go to work. . .

“Our goal is to put the proper programs in there that match up with the local industries, there’s gonna be a pipeline for them. You know, to produce students that are prepared for entry-level jobs, and-and that’s our goal to get people in there and get em training,” said Alsobrooks.

He is well-prepared, knowing that obtaining adequate funding from the state may be easier said than done in upcoming years. However, he also has faith in the school and in its hard-working students – both current and prospective.

Alsobrooks is a 15-year veteran of the community college system; he was previously the VP of Workforce Development at Pearl River CC.

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GTR Coding Academy in Columbus Producing New Programmers

Columbus, MS — Courtesy of the Dispatch

“I never would have imagined I would end up here,” said Kingdom McGee, a graduate of the Columbus school’s first-ever graduate class. “It’s sort of surreal going from things looking pretty bleak and ending up with a job that’s really a start to my career.” He went from being stuck at home with devastating health issues to a job with the Army Corps of Engineers in Vicksburg, and all at a tuition-free vocational school.

Golden Triangle Coding Academy coders Broderick Cattladge, Kayla Woodard, Leigh Jones, Angela Pugh and Kingdom McGee celebrate graduating on Saturday at the Waverly Country Club
Courtesy photo by Chauncey Magnum

The GTR Coding Academy in Columbus, an affiliate of MSU, is one of two in Mississippi (the other is in Jackson). The schools’ aim is to provide training and coding instruction for serious students and also to help them find jobs in the industry. Director Sarah Lee, MSU engineering professor, stated that their ultimate desire to expand students’ opportunity for success in technical fields.

“It’s to create more computing pathways for people in Mississippi,” Lee said. “Not everyone is the same so not everyone is on a pathway to college. We don’t all fit into the same mold. In order to increase the pool of technical talent in the state, we have to think outside the box.”

“They said, ‘we like what we see,'” McGee went on to say. “I was floored. Before, I thought that my opportunity was gone. That moment was life changing for me.” McGee said that wouldn’t have happened had it not been for his education at the coding academy, which taught him to never stop learning and to grow with technology as it progresses.

“There’s no telling where my job might lead me,” McGee said. “I’m pretty easy-going and I’m eager to see what else is out there for me. My past two years have been truly blessed. You can’t write or make this stuff up. I have a creative background and coding is another one of those outlets for me and people want to pay me to do this.”

“It’s life changing for those students who complete the program and are able to go into employment,” Lee said. “It’s also a positive thing for the state in that we are increasing the tax base and increasing the pool for qualified persons for technical jobs, which hopefully will result in more companies coming to Mississippi and providing those jobs.”

Lee said that the academy will be accepting applications for the next class which will start in July. Each applicant undergoes an interview & board review process. Those interested can apply online at mscodingacademy.org.

“When you’re working in a technical field, you have to be a lifelong learner because the technology is changing so rapidly,” Lee said. “The learning doesn’t stop after you graduate. It’s taken them from either unemployment or hourly wage employment to professional positions and working in a professional environment with a competitive salary in the state.”

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Heritage Regains Distinction of Being an Apple Distinguished School

COLUMBUS, MS – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Heritage Academy came within a hair’s breadth of missing out on its “Apple Distinguished School” designation this year, but they made it just in time; they are one of only two schools in the state to bear this distinction.

“All along the way, the primary focus was to enhance the learning experience for our students,” Headmaster Greg Carlyle said. “We were blown away. I immediately sent (the email) to Janet [Lewis, Director of Instructional Technology]. It’s one of those things, you work real hard and did all the leg work and you try to show what we are doing matters to our students. To have someone like Apple validate what we were doing, we were so proud. It just rises our standards and expectations. ”

Junior Anna Beth Brock uses Photoshop on her iPad in her graphic design class at Heritage Academy – Heritage was recognized as an Apple Distinguished School Thursday afternoon – courtesy photo

A major part of becoming an Apple Distinguished School is to have one Mac or iPad for every student and faculty member for at least two academic years running. Another is to incorporate technological instruction into the curriculum, as well as meeting high standards for both Apple-certified teachers and administrators.

Each high school student must own their own iPad for classroom use, and it is well-incorporated into the curriculum: “You get to do research instantly,” Junior Lauren Short said. “We use our iPads a lot to do our broadcasts and graphic design and I do all that on iPad. I use it a lot for online books and quizzes. There’s no delay. It’s definitely a privilege. You look at some schools, they don’t have any type of iPad, so just to be able to (do) immediate research.”

“I’ve been in education 35 years,” Spanish and French teacher Hope Friesen said. “So I’ve seen from no computers in a classroom to one to one. It’s making them prepare for their futures. Their future is technology. I believe if they don’t learn to incorporate it they will not be successful.”

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MSU Earns State and National Accolades

STARKVILLE — Courtesy of News Mississippi

The recent NSF Higher Education Research and Development Survey for Fiscal Year 2017 has awarded MSU 94th place overall nationwide among both private and public institutions. The schools also ranked highly among non-medical school institutions (58th), and among public institutions (64th).

The survey ranks school primarily based on their research efforts, personnel, and funding; MSU ranked first in terms of research personnel nationwide. It also drew top marks in the fields of computer science, agricultural science, life science, mathematical sciences, psychology, social science, and education for the state.

“We are very pleased to see our research portfolio growing and diversifying. It’s a true testament to the extraordinary people—the faculty, staff, and students—we have here at MSU,” said David Shaw, vice president for research and economic development. “Research is also a very significant economic development success story for our entire state with Mississippi Research Consortium institutions seeing more than $475 million in R&D expenditures,” He went on to say.

Moreover, MSU is the only Mississippi university to have earned the Innovation and Economic Prosperity University distinction from the Association of Public and Land-grant Universities and its Commission on Innovation, Competitiveness and Economic Prosperity. The designation recognizes Mississippi State for working to advance engagement and economic well-being in the state, region, and nation.

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Starkville Named Among Top College Towns Nationwide

STARKVILLE, MS – Courtesy of the Starkville Daily News

Personal finance website Wallet Hub recently released its rankings of the best college towns in the country. Starkville came in at 25th in the overall rankings, and 9th among small cities (population under 125,000). Over 400 US cities were taken into consideration.

“We have a good relationship with the students and the university and I think this reflects that,” Mayor Lynn Spruill said. “We want [students] to feel like they’re at home when they’re here with us and I think that’s part of what we seem to be achieving and this validates that.”

“We want those students to want to come here and we want more to come here,” Spruill went on to say. “That’s part of what makes us grow and be better and be smarter. And that increase in youth and vitality gives that well-rounded sense of who you are. It makes you dynamic; it makes you progressive.”

“The community and the university have to work together to make a place where these students want to be,” Spruill concluded. “And obviously when they’re done with college we’d like them to stay here so that’s all a part of that. If we can make them feel like this is home, we staunch some of that brain drain that we keep hearing about. because we want them to stay with us. We want them to continue to be a part of the community.”

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New President at EMCC

GOLDEN TRIANGLE – Courtesy of The Dispatch

East Mississippi Community College has announced that it will be bringing in a new president early in 2019. The newest officeholder is to be Scott Alsobrooks, vice president of economic and community development at Pearl River Community College in Poplarville. His predecessor at EMCC, Thomas Huebner, resigned his position in May.

Incoming EMCC President Scott Alsobrooks

“We were methodical and tried to do everything we could to get a great pool of candidates,” EMCC Board Chairman Moore said. “I think we accomplished that feat. Now we have, what I perceive is, the right man for the job. We felt like he was the best candidate of those that we interviewed to serve as our next executive leader as president.”

“He has approximately three decades of experience, some in industry and some in the community college environment,” Moore said. “He’s knowledgeable of all aspects of a Mississippi community college. He’s an excellent communicator, a documented innovator and he’s not afraid of any challenges. I think he will be a great leader for our institution moving forward.”

“I’ve watched what’s been going on in the Golden Triangle,” Alsobrooks said. “The (manufacturing) renaissance that you have is just really amazing. When I was a student in the ’80s, between Starkville and Columbus, it was just cow pastures. Now, you drive through there and you’ve got all these big manufacturing plants and they’re making helicopters and engines and just all kinds of advanced things. I’m excited about coming up here and being a part of that and helping students be successful.” “The Communiversity is going to be a huge asset in the community,” he went on to say. “I’m excited about … getting to work.

“I look forward to showing the opportunities to people and letting them know what we have available at East Mississippi.”

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Kids Become Makers in Starkville Schools

STARKVILLE, MS – Courtesy of The Dispatch

Sudduth Elementary first graders Gianna Russell and Sirita Chanachai build with plastic cups in their Makerspace Friday afternoon – Mary Politz, The Dispatch

Sudduth Elementary librarian Leslie Hunt helped to bring a Makerspace to the school – an area filled with myriad materials that can help to inspire young minds to build, solve problems, and even get some learning in without them even realizing it. “I just started thinking, it would be awesome to have it all in one room for everyone to utilize,” Hunt said. “(The kids) love it with just being creative and it helps them with behavior issues. It is amazing (because) some of the kids … have had difficulty doing certain things, but in here it’s kind of like everyone is on the same level.”  she also noted that students tend to get more creative and imaginative when using simpler materials such as plastic cups and unsharpened pencils.

First grade teacher Mya Floyd said that she makes an effort to book a weekly session in the Makerspace weekly whenever possible. “It helps them analyze and work on communication,” Floyd said. “The communication skills they learn here, they take that back to the classroom in academics. They’ve started working better together in both reading and math and are even helping each other. I love bringing them here … We talk about things that aren’t academic in here. I ask them about their family and weekend, and I get to tell them about myself, too.”

Hunt isn’t the only educator who is helping to bring the concept to local schools. Brandi Burton, Starkville Oktibbeha Consolidated School District grants and innovative strategy specialist, has been working on expanding the program throughout the district: “Maker movement is pretty much across the nation, and we wanted to bring that to Starkville,” Burton said. “The libraries are supposed to be the hub of each of the schools, so that’s where we started.”

Librarians from each of the SOCSD schools met recently to discuss the project. The current hope is to bring a Makerspace, in at least some form, to every school in the district by the end of the school year. For campuses that are short on space, this may simply be a cart packed to bursting with materials, but it’s a start. Burton went on to say, “I think it’s so important for us to join this movement, so that the kids that are hands-on learners and out-of-the-box thinkers, that they have just as much of an advantage as the students that are just academic … We just need to make sure we have opportunities for every type of learner, and with the things that will be available in these spaces, every type of learner will be catered to in some way.”

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Local Businesses Stand Out During Holiday Season

The Purple Elephant employees Dixie Belue and Sherri Dyer decorate a Christmas tree with handmade ornaments Monday afternoon- Photo by Mary Politz, Dispatch Staff

COLUMBUS & STARKVILLE – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Many local stores have been doing gangbusters as the holiday season roars into full swing, thanks to the special services they provide and the superior customer service they offer – And THAT’S Good for Business!

Sarah Barefield, manager at The Purple Elephant on Wilkins Wise Road in COlumbus, reports that their customers come for the great pottery items from Mississippi crafters, and leave delighted by the staff’s impressive skill at gift-wrapping.

“We do a great job gift wrapping,” Barefield said. “A lot of people come and shop just for our gift-wrapping. We also just try to be as nice as possible. . .  It was just better this year. We were very happy with the customers that came in, and if it wasn’t for them, we wouldn’t be here.” 

Gloria Herriott, owner of Hollyhocks in Downtown Columbus, credits the strong economy:  “Small businesses know when it’s real. We’re off to a really good Christmas season. People have more money to spend and they feel comfortable spending it.” 

Main Street Director Barbara Bigelow  had this to say: “I’ve had great responses from our merchants from both days — Black Friday and Shop Small Saturday . . . We certainly appreciate people supporting them. It’s so good for our economy. Everything we spend with our local merchants, of course, stays in our community and it feeds our economy. That’s always good for the community. It’s just important to keep your money local.”  

In Starkville, George Sherman’s clothing store on Russell Street did well, despite the Egg Bowl being in Oxford this year. His Black Friday sales were such a success that he will be extending them through the end of the month of Novermber.

“We specialize in service. We really talk to our customers and find out what their needs are and meet those needs,” Sherman said. “We were pleasantly surprised. . . Shop local, because those dollars turn back to the community.”

The Lodge, an apparel store, fell a bit short of expectations, but they still did quite well for themselves. Owner John Hendricks said, “You just can’t beat that football traffic.” he went on to say that customers still poured in to purchase Egg Bowl victory t-shirts and cowbells for the holiday season.  

“We’re very excited about the holiday season,” Hendricks said. “We always hope (people) shop locally because it affects local people.”

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Lowndes County Schools Looking to Save Big Thanks to Green Energy Tech

LOWNDES COUNTY – Courtesy of the Dispatch

Lynn Wright and Brian Clark (Dispatch file photo)

Lowndes County School District Superintendent Lynn Wright recently announced that the LCSD and Schneider Electric have joined forces in order to help the District save a lot of money on its power bills and go green at the same time. Schneider is an energy management company with expertise in maintaining and improving energy efficiency. While the initial cost paid to Schneider was a bit over $4 million – which included upgrades to the District’s HVAC systems that had already been mandated anyway – the savings over a 20-year period are expected to be in the $8 million range. Along with these newer, more efficient HVAC units, a large number of motion-sensor lights and LED lights were installed. The TVA also supplied the District with a $115,800 incentive payment to help start the ball rolling.

“I think energy efficiency is a big topic,” Board President Brian Clark said. “I think everybody needs to take advantage of that whenever possible. The LED lights that have been installed (are) going to drastically reduce usage moving forward and that equals dollar savings.”

“We have a responsibility to utilize our funds as effectively and efficiently as we can,” Wright said. “Energy savings, not only does it help us financially but helps the environment.”

The LCSD estimates that these changes should bring about $300 thousand per year in savings on energy costs, reflecting about a 22% improvement over last year’s costs. With almost all of the work complete as it stands, Schneider is expected to complete the last of the work by December.

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