When Toyota arrived in Northeast Mississippi, the world-leading car manufacturer made a dramatic commitment of a $50 million gift to benefit public education in Pontotoc, Union and Lee counties.
On Wednesday, business leaders, community advocates, elected officials and educators gathered with Toyota Motor Manufacturing Mississippi and CREATE Foundation to celebrate the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund’s 10th anniversary at the Imagine the Possibilities Career Expo, as reported by Daily Journal staff writer Michaela Gibson Morris.
The three counties benefitting from the funds are members of the PUL Alliance, whose creation was spearheaded by the Community Development Foundation, and whose regional unity for economic development helped bring the assembly plant to the Wellspring mega site near Blue Springs.
Toyota’s gift went toward establishing an endowment that funds efforts to prepare students for careers into the future and is managed by the CREATE Foundation. The Imagine the Possibilities Career Expo is supported by these funds and is held each October, exposing more than 7,200 eighth–graders to careers in 18 professional pathways
“In the last 10 years, many educational programs have been enhanced, and launched, by the Toyota Wellspring Education Fund,” said Emily Lauder, vice president for administration at Toyota Mississippi. “The momentum we are seeing with programs like Imagine the Possibilities Career Expo led by Albine Bennett, and the career coaches led by Dr. Kristy Luce, are just examples of the successful outcomes we are seeing.”
The Wellspring Fund partnerships among school districts and business leaders have endured by focusing on enhancing the scholastics and connecting the classroom to careers.
“Connecting education and careers is a critical piece,” said Mike Clayborne, president of the CREATE Foundation.
Over the past decade, proceeds from the endowment have enhanced education in the three counties in numerous ways, including:
• Providing $1 million in grants which were used to improve technology, provide infrastructure, and enhance early childhood education.
• Establishing dual Enrollment courses in web app design, healthcare careers, aviation, and advanced manufacturing, to include internship opportunities.
• Providing tuition for summer STEM camps held at MSU and Ole Miss, as well as advanced manufacturing camps hosted at NEMCC and ICC.
• Linking education to careers through an initiative which included hiring a national consulting firm to conduct interviews, provide guidance to educators and business leaders as to how better prepare students for the workforce demand.
• Establishing a guiding committee, consisting of educators and business leaders, which helps to develop systemic change linking education to careers in kindergarten through grade 12.
• Providing for curriculum audits resulting in the development of curriculum tool kits to assist.
We salute Toyota for its philanthropic efforts and for the impact it has made on our region. 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.