Vicksburg-Warren Schools Superintendent Chad Shealy

An innovative program put together by the Vicksburg-Warren School District and the county’s Chamber of Commerce was celebrated Thursday when the Ford Motor Company Fund designated the Vicksburg Warren College & Career Academies as a Ford Next Generation Learning Community.

This makes Vicksburg Warren the first district in the state to achieve the distinction.

The district and Chamber of Commerce put together a three-year plan to transform its high schools with input from Ford Next Generation Learning, and the result was the Vicksburg Warren College and Career Academies.

Students in the academies learn academics through the lens of a particular career, such as engineering, healthcare, technology or marketing. They also have the opportunity to participate in internships, job shadowing and other activities.

“We believe that all education leads to employment. The Vicksburg Warren College and Career Academies will allow us to prepare all students for the path that is best for them after graduation ­— employment, college enrollment, enlisting in the armed forces or becoming an entrepreneur,” Superintendent Chad Shealy said.

Districts in the Ford Next Generation Learning network have experienced higher graduation rates, increased academic achievement, lower dropout rates and a greater number of industry certifications earned in high school.

“Ford NGL research has proven that community ownership and accountability is just as important to educating our children as good study habits and hard work,” Cheryl Carrier, executive director of Ford Next Generation Learning, said. “The Ford NGL partnership gives (district) students and teachers a competitive edge that not only improves their chances for future success, but will benefit the community as a whole for years to come.”

The district announced the designation at a ceremony at the Vicksburg Convention Center Thursday morning.

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Kate Royals is a Jackson native and returned to Mississippi Today as the lead education reporter after serving in the same capacity from 2016 to 2018. Prior to that, she was a reporter for the Clarion-Ledger covering education and state government. She won awards for her investigative work, including stories about the state’s campaign finance laws and prison system. She was a news producer at MassLive in Springfield, Mass., after graduating from Louisiana State University’s Manship School of Mass Communications with a master’s degree in communications.