Tupelo, MS Technology in Education

A new technology initiative in Tupelo, MS gives each student Apple laptops and tuition guarantee program.

Carol Cowan
On Thursday, April 28, 2011 - 23:51
Tupelo, MS Education

Exciting things are happening for area high school students, thanks to forward-thinking leadership, community generosity and a local spirit of cooperation.

From Paper-Based to Computer-Based

Tupelo Public School District Superintendent Dr. Randy Shaver believes education has to be relevant to be effective, which is why students at Tupelo schools are using high-tech “books” for their schoolwork these days. Under Shaver’s leadership, monies that would have been budgeted for paper-based expenses are being used instead to purchase Apple MacBook laptop computers, and, after some training, each student gets one to use both on and off campus.

As of the start of the 2010-2011 school year, every TPSD student in grades 6 through 12 has a laptop of his or her own.

“The reason we’re doing this is that these students are 21st-century learners,” Shaver says. “We’ve been trying to teach them using methods from the 1940s and 1950s. They learn so much more using the technology they know and use every day – like computers and iPods, which lend themselves to project-based learning. We find that students do so much better when we give them a problem to solve or a project that they have to figure out, rather than a set of facts and figures to memorize.”

An Enhanced Experience

The relevance of the technology enhances the overall school experience, and many of the seniors who got the first batch of laptops opted to use them to do their senior projects.

Likewise, the first group of Lee County graduates to benefit from another innovative idea, the Lee County/Marchbanks Helping Hands Tuition Guarantee Program, started classes at Itawamba Community College in the fall of 2009. Two hundred nineteen students participated the first year.

CREATE Foundation

The seed of the tuition guarantee program took root in the 1990s as an idea and then a goal of CREATE Foundation, the leading community foundation in the region. But not until John and Frances Marchbanks left the organization an $8.5 million gift to be used to benefit Lee County were the funds available to bring the program to fruition.

The Lee County Board of Supervisors partnered with the foundation to provide additional funding and support, the upshot of which is that every high school graduate in Lee County now has the opportunity to attend four regular semesters at Itawamba Community College tuition-free.

“Mr. Marchbanks was from this area, and he remembered how hard it was to get ahead for a lot of people. He wanted to give them a leg up,” says Lewis Whitfield, senior vice president of CREATE Foundation. “The partnership of the Lee County Board of Supervisors sends out a good message that the county cares about our young people and about creating a good workforce in the community.”

Information about requirements and application for the tuition guarantee can be found at the Itawamba Community College website, www.iccms.edu.

Read about more education opportunities in Tupelo, MS.


Carol Cowan began her writing career in 2006 as a staff writer for JournalCommunications.