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Vicksburg-Warren and Claiborne County school districts partner with Entergy for high school programs



The Vicksburg-Warren and Claiborne County school districts are set to begin Energy Academy programs in the 2020-2021 school year designed to prepare high school students for fulfilling careers in the energy industry.

Entergy’s Grand Gulf Nuclear Station is a supporter of the academies, which will offer a curriculum of interactive lectures, presentations, class assignments, field trip and research projects focusing on sustainable energy. By pairing classroom learning with hands-on experience, the academies are intended to help students gain internships in the industry.

“The Claiborne County School District is proud to have the Energy Academy as the newest innovative addition to our Career and Technical Education Center. We are delighted to have Entergy as one of our primary partners sponsoring the Energy Academy,” said Dr. Nonya C. Thrasher, interim superintendent of education, in a statement.

“The partnership with Entergy will afford our students the opportunity to explore, discover and gain hands-on experiences that will lead to a plethora of productive career opportunities. We are extremely honored to announce that we have 20 incoming ninth graders as our inaugural class. We are committed to ensuring that our students are prepared to meet the challenging demands of the 21st century workforce.”

The Energy Academy Act, signed into law in 2019 by then-Gov. Phil Bryant, established a partnership between the two school districts and the energy industry.

“Gov. Bryant recognized the reliable, stable and rewarding jobs that Entergy and the state’s energy industry provides, and he understood the continuing need we have for a skilled technical workforce as we build the premier utility,” said Haley Fisackerly, Entergy Mississippi president and CEO. “With our Grand Gulf nuclear plant in Port Gibson and our growing utility business that serves roughly half the state, our need for highly-trained workers is always expanding. We are pleased to support these academies and their mission.”

In 2019, educators, Entergy representatives and local Chamber of Commerce officials met to establish a budget, recruit students and design a curriculum. The program offers students the opportunity to study for and take a national energy industry certification exam. Completion of the exam prepares them for advanced programs that can lead to a career as an engineer, line worker or technician, or prepare them for other energy-focused academic or technical programs.

As part of the Energy Academy’s effort to engage students, both school districts invited Entergy to present information on careers in energy to more than 500 students. Before COVID-19, Entergy also hosted a monthly Energy Academy board meeting at Grand Gulf, as well as a student tour of the Grand Gulf control room simulator during Careers in Energy Week. The current goals for the 2020-2021 academic year include continuing student and parent engagement and strengthening industry and classroom alignment. Curriculum programs are key factors toward successfully sharpening and broadening students’ career ambitions.

“Our goal at Entergy is to provide opportunities for students to learn, live and work in their communities,” said Dr. Alex Washington, Entergy’s workforce development and diversity specialist. “After completing four years of the Energy Academy and getting a strong STEM foundation, we hope graduates will consider a trade school, such as welding or electrician programs, community college or a four-year degree. Throughout the Energy Academy, students will learn the pathways they can take to enter the energy industry. We’re very excited to partner with two school districts within a few miles of Grand Gulf, the fifth-largest nuclear plant in the world. The site provides so many learning opportunities.”

Career development is a critical component for students and affects the future of local communities, the state and the country. Grand Gulf Nuclear Station, Entergy Mississippi and the Energy Academy board will continue to ensure that students acquire the competencies and credentials needed to make the school-to-work connection as they advance toward their future careers, as well as support future workforce needs in Mississippi and across the company.



Vicksburg native Jaron Smith launched Run Your Gun Tactical to train firearm users



(photo courtesy Jaron Smith)

Vicksburg native Jaron Smith has launched Run Your Gun Tactical, a firearm training and manufacturing company based in Brandon, Mississippi.

Smith is a 2010 graduate of Vicksburg High School where he was known for his intelligence and being a great student.

He started his company in early August, and it has taken off in a good direction with Smith teaching multiple classes on firearm safety.

The company began after an incident at a local church where windows were broken out. The incident prompted the pastor to investigate firearm protection, and Smith stepped in to help by getting certified as a firearms instructor. Run Your Gun Tactical now deals with church security where Smith trains someone in the church to be prepared for incidents such as an active shooter situation.

“I want to build confidence in people while they are handling a firearm,” Smith said. “Safety cannot and will not be compromised.”

Smith and Run Your Gun Tactical are trained to handle any type of firearm but only offers training in handguns and AR-15-style rifles at this time. One of the purposes for the company is getting individuals prepared for concealed carry permits, which are popular in Mississippi. He gives firearm training to individuals 13 years old and up, and training with Run Your Gun Tactical begins with a classroom session before hands-on training.

The company is growing more each week and Smith has major goals for his business. In just a short amount of time, he has held firearm training classes in Tupelo and Greenwood, Mississippi.

By the beginning of next year or sooner, Run Your Gun Tactical will be able to manufacture and sell firearms made by Smith.

“Success can be yours,” Smith said. “Do not be afraid to succeed, and there will be many obstacles you will have to face.”

For more information, visit the Run Your Gun Tactical website or Facebook page.

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Farmer Jim’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze open through Oct. 31



A variety of gourds and pumpkins are available at Farmer Jim"s (photo courtesy Farmer Jim"s)

Farmer Jim’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze co-owner Lynn Newman says they are thrilled to be open again this year as the Delta Backwater Flood of 2019 prevented them from planting last year.

The business is open to the public from now until Oct. 31 on Fridays from noon to 6 p.m., Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Sundays from 2 p.m. to 6 p.m.

Farmer Jim Newman (photo courtesy Farmer Jim’s)

They are open Tuesday through Thursday by appointment only to groups of 15 or more. Please call 662-907-3359 to schedule an appointment for a group.

Admission is $7 per person for ages 1 year and up and includes access to the corn maze.

Free admission per person with the purchase of a pumpkin valued at $5 or higher.

Best value is the $10 ticket per person for all activities and includes a traditional $5 orange pumpkin.

Night rates for a scheduled group of 15 or more is $10 each. Ask about set up rate for a bonfire.

Check the Facebook page for nighttime activities including the Haunted Maze Oct. 24.

Social distancing is required. If you cannot social distance, they ask that you wear a mask.

Farmer Jim’s Pumpkin Patch and Corn Maze is located on state Highway 16 west of Rolling Fork, Mississippi. For directions, call or visit the farm’s website.

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Hinds CC and Continental Tire announce new apprentice programs



From left, Brenda Myers, state director of the U.S. Department of Labor Office of Apprenticeship in Mississippi, Hinds President Dr. Stephen Vacik, Dr. Chad Stocks, Hinds Vice President of Workforce & Community Development (Photo courtesy Hinds Community College/April Garon)

Hinds Community College and Continental Tire have signed an agreement to launch two new programs that will support the academic goals and professional development of students who are interested in manufacturing careers.

The Production Apprentice and Mechatronics Apprentice Programs offer paid, on-the-job experience with a global company and industry certifications.

“Continental is proud to partner with Hinds Community College to establish a program that will create a solid foundation for many careers in Mississippi,” said Michael Egner, plant manager of the Continental Plant along Interstate 20 in Clinton, in a statement.

The program will be open to students who are dually enrolled in high school and the college’s Industrial Maintenance and Mechanics program. Initially, the program will be offered to high school juniors and seniors at Clinton High School and Hinds County Career and Technical Center.

The Mechatronics Apprentice Program, a combination of both mechanical and electrical disciplines, is a growing industry within advanced manufacturing. The program will be open to Hinds students who complete the company’s Production Apprentice Program.

“The Hinds Community College team is extremely excited about this partnership,” said Hinds President Dr. Stephen A. Vacik. “It is a great opportunity for students, and we are committed to implementing exceptional programming that allows us to train citizens in central Mississippi to work with a world class company.”

Both programs require students to balance a 2.5 GPA and 32-hour workweek. Participants will receive paid tuition and book fees while in the apprentice programs.

In 2017, Continental and HCC introduced the Maintenance Technician Internship Program.

Four students spent the summer in Mount Vernon, Illinois, working with specialists at Continental’s tire plant. Twelve of the interns were promoted to full-time maintenance technicians at the new plant in Clinton.

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