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The VWSD’s latest idea could change the future for Vicksburg and Warren County

Economic development director Pablo Diaz said it best that superintendent Chad Shealy and the Vicksburg Warren School District don’t just think outside the box they “set the box on fire.”

The VWSD has partnered with the Mississippi Department of Human Services and USDA to offer a 15-month workforce development course open to parents of VWSD enrolled children currently receiving SNAP benefits and those parents’ children between the ages of 16 and 21.

The program is believed to be the first of its kind in the country, and at the very least is something that has never been seen before in the state of Mississippi.

The Shealy-led VWSD has a history of thinking outside the box. They will have fully implemented the Leader in Me program throughout the district starting in the fall. They have started the process of creating career academies through a partnership with Ford NGO and local business partners.

No one will ever accuse Shealy of being stuck in the past, and some of his ideas could completely change the way education is thought about and implemented. He wants to give students hands-on career experience in the fields they chose including internship and running in school businesses before they ever graduate high school. The vision is all grounded in his belief that after graduation every student should accomplish one of the “three E’s” of being enrolled in college, employed full time or enlisted in the military.

This plan that was announced Tuesday at the Academy of Innovation might just be the most box on fire, groundbreaking idea yet, and the one that could have the biggest impact on the future of Vicksburg and Warren County.

The workforce development course will start with a keystone class based upon the 16 Career Clusters. The parents will then participate in one of the three career academies, which are the same as those being offered to high school students during the school day.

The goal at the end of the 15-month program is for each parent to be employed full time, enrolled at Hinds in courses to receive a necessary certificate or two-year degree or enrolled at Alcorn State pursuing a four-year degree.

The overarching goal of the program is to create “the absolute single best workforce, the single best-educated group of people in the United States,” Shealy said, while also improving the lives and performance of VWSD students by creating better lives for them once the bell at the end of the school day rings.

If the program works, and every sign points to it doing so, Vicksburg and Warren County will become a model for the state if Mississippi and the entire country for what can be done when you set the box on fire and work together as a community.