Toyota Mississippi Vice President of Administration Mike Botkin announces a $1.5 million grant for STEAM education in area schools at the 2017 CREATE Foundation annual meeting.

TUPELO – Eight public school districts in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties will benefit from grant money being allocated for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art and Math (STEAM) education over the next three years.

The $1.5 million in grants, being awarded from the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund, was announced Thursday at the CREATE Foundation’s annual meeting by Toyota Mississippi vice president of administration Mike Botkin. The Toyota Wellspring fund is administered by CREATE.

The grants will support STEAM initiatives and education for K-12 students.

“Most of our schools already have significant efforts underway, and these funds will help take those efforts to the next level,” Botkin said.

The Toyota Wellspring fund is a $50 million commitment over 10 years to enhance public education in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties. The endowment was established by Toyota when the company broke ground on its Blue Springs plant in 2007.

One of the primary goals of the Toyota Wellspring fund is to support educational opportunities which prepare students for success in their prospective careers. The fund’s impact has become increasingly focused on linking careers to education.

“We think this focus is very important because it helps make school more relevant to students,” Botkin said.

With these new grants, CREATE president Mike Clayborne said the fund will continue to promote the skills students need to be considered “career-ready” upon leaving high school. Those include many of the concepts that STEAM education encompasses.

“We think that’s a very close component to careers in the future, so it’s just another element of preparing students for the jobs that will be available in the future,” Clayborne said.

Educators must apply for the grants, and Clayborne said the money will be made available before the start of the 2018-2019 school year.

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