TUPELO • A new program between the Tupelo Public School District and Itawamba Community College is getting support from one of the oldest community foundations in the state.

CREATE announced Monday a designation of a $2,500 grant from the Tupelo/Lee County community foundation will go toward the Tupelo High School middle college program, which launched this week on the Tupelo ICC campus.

“One of our goals is to find things that we can help as they move along in areas of innovation and change,” said CREATE Lee County affiliate president Dick White. “This is certainly something that’s innovative and gives young adults an opportunity to become educated in more than one way.”

The first of its kind in North Mississippi, this program allows qualified Tupelo High School students to graduate with both a high school diploma and an associate’s degree from ICC, simultaneously.

“We certainly want to thank (CREATE) for their support in our efforts to provide innovative opportunities for our students,” TPSD superintendent Rob Picou said. “Middle college is a new conversation, but we want to expand it. Our goal is to meet the needs of industry as we create Northeast Mississippi’s workplace with our students.”

Eleven students from THS entered the project that has them being transported between the two campuses for classes.

The cost of transportation, a new counselor that is overseeing the students and the cost of tuition for each child – around $1,500 a semester – adds up.

“Our school board has committed the funding necessary to get it started, but now with assistance such as this, it’s going to help us continue to expand,” Picou said.

White said that the district is fortunate to have a leader like Picou who looks for different ways to help students become educated.

“That’s our answer to getting better in Lee County and it’s our answer to getting better in the state of Mississippi,” White said. “We’re very pleased to support it and very excited about the potential this program has.”

Picou said he hopes to see the program flourish, allowing those students to begin to transition to a college education and the workforce.

“We’re looking forward to greater things ahead as we continue to expand opportunities for our students,” Picou said.

derek.russell@journalinc.com Twitter: @wderekrussell

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