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AccelerateMS Recognizes Workforce Champions


This week, the Mississippi Office of Workforce Development (AccelerateMS) recognized three individuals and groups for their outstanding contributions to Mississippi’s workforce efforts. Awardees were: the New Albany School District’s IMPACT Program, the Southwest Mississippi Community College Workforce Training’s Diesel Preventative Maintenance Program, and Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College President Dr. Mary Graham.

The awards were given at the first Horizons Innovation and Strategy Symposium, which attracted almost 500 individuals from around the State. Representatives from State government, K-12 and higher education, business and industry, and elected officials participated in panel discussions, keynote sessions, and educational forums on topics related to aligning Mississippi’s policies and practices to strengthen the State’s current and future workforce.

The awards were created and crafted by students from the Meridian Community College Precision Machining Engineering Technology Program.

The Workforce Program of the Year was given to the New Albany School District’s IMPACTO Program. IMPACTO is a two-year program for high school juniors and seniors and stands for “Industry as a Means to Prepare for Academic, Career, and Technology Opportunities.”

Students apply to be a part of the IMPACTO Program during their sophomore year. Once accepted, students take part in a series of activities that include researching career opportunities, taking the ACT WorkKeys test, enrolling in career preparatory and dual enrollment courses, working at least 100 hours in a business or industry partner, and working as a part of a professional internship.

As a part of the program, students are eligible to earn a nationally-recognized industry certification or transition immediately into a postsecondary program or full-time career opportunity.

The Instant Impact Award was given to the Southwest Mississippi Community College Workforce Training’s Diesel Preventative Maintenance Program. The innovative program provides students with immediate training and skills related to the maintenance of commercial diesel vehicles. Once finished, students have the opportunity to go straight to work or to enroll in a longer degree program in the field.

The Workforce Champion of the Year was given to Dr. Mary Graham, President of Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. A native of Mississippi, Dr. Graham earned her Ph.D. in Higher Education Administration from the University of Southern Mississippi (USM); her Master’s and Bachelor’s Degrees are from USM as well. She is also a graduate of MGCCC.

Dr. Graham has served as the school’s President since 2011, but joined the school’s staff in 1987. Over the course of her career, she has held positions in the areas of admissions and college relations, and college administration.

Dr. Graham is known nationally for her innovative workforce programming and partnerships with K-12 schools and four-year colleges and universities. She is also known throughout the Gulf Coast Region as a strong partner with business and industry including Mississippi Power and Huntington Ingalls Shipbuilding.

“Investing in Mississippi’s current and future workforce has never been more important,” said AccelerateMS Executive Director Ryan Miller. “These awards represent the kind of innovation, commitment, and partnerships that are necessary to continue the work of building and strengthening Mississippi’s workforce.”